Hog Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders;

They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I have seen your
painted women under the gas lamps luring the farm boys.
And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it is true I have
seen the gunman kill and go free to kill again.
And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the faces of women
and children I have seen the marks of wanton hunger.
And having answered so I turn once more to those who sneer at this my
city, and I give them back the sneer and say to them:
Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud to be
alive and coarse and strong and cunning.
Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on job, here is a tall
bold slugger set vivid against the little soft cities;
Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning as a savage pitted
against the wilderness,
Bareheaded,
Shoveling,
Wrecking,
Planning,
Bulding, breaking, rebuilding,
Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with white teeth,
Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young man laughs,
Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has never lost a battle,
Bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse, and under his
ribs the heart of the people,
Laughing!
Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of Youth, half-naked,
sweating, pround to be Hog Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.

Analysis, meaning and summary of the poem by

48 Comments

  1. asas says:

    this great writer shows emotion in his work. I looooooooooooooooovve iiiiiiiiiiiiittttttttttt.

  2. Gerald Mendrix says:

    i just hate this poem

  3. shyamala says:

    this poem is highly touhing sandburg makes his true defence for his city

  4. chris cardinale says:

    Carl Sandburg is known for writing about the true meaning of life. In this essay Chicago it shows how fast pace and rugged this city is and how everyone wants to blame other people for the problems in the city. He depicts the city of being fast pace and that he isnt enjoying it. Maybe he wants to get out of Chicago and into a new city and find out what real happiness in life is all about.

  5. josh senger says:

    I believe that in the poem “Chicago” it is talking about how the working people in the city. Thay are always doing thier best to provide for thier families but it is hard to just get by. It is saying that the city is hard to work in and that it is dirty and always trying to put you down.

  6. Matthew Nourmohamadian says:

    Sandurg uses an evil dog as a metaphor to the city of Chicago. He uses personifcation to give both the city and the dog human like qualities.

  7. Tabari says:

    The poem Chicago really tell how the city can be so harsh and not inviting. The use of apostrophy gives life to the city. Sandburg has little respect for the city and tells how he really feels.

  8. chris cardinale says:

    Carl Sandburg is known for writing about the true meaning of life. In this essay Chicago it shows how fast pace and rugged this city is and how everyone wants to blame other people for the problems in the city. He depicts the city of being fast pace and that he isnt enjoying it. Maybe he wants to get out of Chicago and into a new city and find out what real happiness in life is all about.

  9. Celina Williamson says:

    This poem by Carl Sandburg seems like it is about the hard times and wickedness of the city Chicago, but it isn’t. We hear of all the crime, labor, and conditions of this city which leaves an impression that the writer is shameful of this city, that he is pitying those who work or live in it but we soon are told that he would sneer at anyone who would sneer at his city. The workers in this city are proud of their city, proud of the vivacity and energy that is a result of their labor, a theme that is noticeable in the lively, rthymic tone of the poem.

  10. Jillian Capdevielle says:

    In the poem “Chicago” I believe that it is talking about the traits of people in certain cities, and that anywhere you live, you will see all different types of people. It shows the city as having people whom are good, and some of which are not so good. But they are all connected in some way.

  11. aria collin says:

    I think that Sandburg is using this poem to display the real difficulties in life. A city that is usually portayed as aplace of glamour and good times is portrayed in this poem as a harsh and unruly place to live. I think sandburg is demonstrating to the reader that life isnt always what it seems.

  12. alexandra corredor says:

    I believe that what this poem is trying to say is that it doesnt matter what city you live in. As long as you except it flaws and you are proud of the place you came from then it doesnt matter what other people think.In the poem “Chicago”, Sandburg wrote the poem as if he were talking to human being.

  13. Erika Roybal says:

    In the poem “Chicago” by Carl Sandburg, he is telling us about the city Chicago. In each stanza he describes the different problems that go on in the city life downtown. Sandburg writes as if Chicago is a living person.

  14. Jan says:

    “Chicago” according to Carl Sandburg is a place where there are things that you should be proud of and other things you should not be proud of. In the first stanza, Carl Sandburg shows that Chicago is a big city filled with industries that are really important and shows a positive vibe about Chicago. In the second stanza, it is filled with Chicago’s negativity like crimes and immorality. In the third stanza, it shows that whatever obstacle Chicago goes through it will strive to solve the problems and maintain to be the Chicago that the people know.

  15. Reece Ludwig says:

    This poem is about the urban city of Chicago. It uses alot of personification in the way that Sandburg describes the city. He describes the city in a very negative way, talking about robbers and murderers and the big city life. The whole peom, he talks to Chicago as if it were a person.

  16. Conlan Tereschuk says:

    “Chicago” by Carl Sandberg demonstrates Sandberg’s respect and possible fear of the city of Chicago. His use of apostrophe in this poem really brings it to life. The use of adjectives also creates strong imagery and reflection of Sandberg’s outlook on the city.

  17. Nicole Beck says:

    In this poem by Carl Sandburg, he uses apostrophes to mock the cities flaws like poverty and hunger. By reading this you think that the author is criticizing Chicago, but he ends up saying how proud and honorable it is. He states that there is no town that has this many problems and can still be so famous and glamourous.

  18. Ariel Ceballos says:

    Mrs. Bangert,
    Chicago: I think that this poem was about how different people are. I also think that it depends on were they are and who they are with in there soroundings.I think that this poem was showing no matter were you are in the would there in no place that is better or worse than Chicago.
    Ariel Ceballos
    3rd Period

  19. Tara Alizadeh says:

    This poem is quite interesting. It shows me how Sandburg portrays Chicago in his own eyes. He describes it as a very hard city, yet it shows patriotism. What he’s saying is that he really loves Chicago. He’s standing up for his adored city, it’s very hearty.

  20. jeff key says:

    this poem was about how sandburg felt towards his city. he treats the city like a human and admires many aspects of the city. his writting style enables him to be able to make this connection.

  21. Nick says:

    In the poem “Chicago, the author Carl Sandburg portrays chicago as a big family. How a family can still maintain itself through the ups and downs. He also shows pride in his city, and how he will defend it no matter what condition it is in.

  22. Kevin T says:

    In the poem “Chicago”, Carl Sandburg portrays the city as a person and mentions the problems within the city. However, he accepts and embraces Chicago despite all the problems within such as poverty and prostitution. He is comfortable with his mindset because he is already aware that the problems that is taking place in Chicago also exist in other cities.

  23. Klara Hardin says:

    In this poem written by Carl Sandburg, he talks about the city as a person. Carl uses what is called an apostrophe which is a digression in the form of an address to someone not present, or to a personified object or idea. Carl Sandburg personified the city by giving it human characteristics, “Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with white teeth…”

  24. Marc Dickson says:

    In the poem Chicago, the author talks about the city as if it were a person. He talks about all the bad things in the city but also says how he likes it.

  25. Jan Alvaro says:

    The city Chicago, according to Carl Sandburg is a city filled with misdemeanor. A City not worth living in, but a place filled with flourish materials, and a center of resources that Americans need.

  26. Jan Alvaro says:

    The city Chicago, according to Carl Sandburg is a city filled with misdemeanor. A City not worth living in, but a place filled with flourish materials, and a center of resources that Americans need.

  27. Anja Plommer says:

    I have to say that I do not like this poem. The author descibes Chicago as dark and dangerous indirectly, because he doesn’t disagree with the people who describe Chicago. Even though it seems to be his hometown, he doesn’t show any emotion towards it; it just seems that he doesn’t really care. And honestly, this poem makes me sad.

  28. Sara Hartburn says:

    There is no defense in this poem. In fact, he agrees with the critics. Sandburg makes no apologies for his city, nor does he try to “sell” its better side to others. The entire poem is a metaphor and a personification, bringing the city alive to those who will look and see. The obvious pride Sandburg feels for his city is displayed in strong words and strident language. But, then, isn’t that what real life is . . . strong, vibrant, strident, energetic? The poem was shocking to some at the time it was written (especially those who lived is “soft cities” on the East Coast). And I doubt very much whether Sandburg’s marvelous portrayal fits the Chicago of 2007. It’s a slice of time and history, beautifully portrayed.

  29. Drew A. says:

    I thought this was a great poem. Sandburg really does a great job portraying Chicago as he sees it. He knows it has flaws, but overall he is defending his city and showing why it is superior to other cities.

  30. Mike M says:

    The author is trying to create an image for the reader of how Chicago (to Sandburg) is like. He shares that it is a thriving city as well as a problematic city that lets it stand out from the cities around it. He also explains how the city survives from day to day with the addition of what Chicago has to offer in an economic/occupational sense.

  31. Ian Hart says:

    He talks in this poem as if he knows the city personally. He acts as if the city of Chicago is his family. He knows its not perfect but her loves it.

  32. aria says:

    i think this poem is the poets idea of what the city of Chicago is. He describes it as a hard city. Not a place for a weary person. this poem isdirected at the readers and its harshness makes me think twice about the seeminly glamorous city.

  33. Aunna says:

    I think Sandburg does a wonderful job personifying Chicago with it’s population. Also, his word choice and sound repeatition to create the effect of physical work or even the trainyard. A good perspective work.

  34. Rhino says:

    I think when carl was writing these poems he was definetly smokin thats why the names of his poems are like Haze, Grass, and Fog. He was definetly in a haze in some thick fog when he was writin this.

  35. MJ says:

    I wanted to remind some of you guys commenting that the Chicago he’s writing about was the packinghouse central of America during the early 1900s, was polluted, poor, and – well, if anyone has read The Jungle, you’ll know what I mean. So keep in mind what situation he’s talking about here – this is not your modern day Chicago. So don’t say Chicago is getting a “bad rap” for whatever if you are talking about modern day Chicago.

  36. ian says:

    Powerful poem. Really awesome.

  37. Bob Marley says:

    Yo mon!
    I really liked this poem, it trully spoke to me deep down.

  38. Debbie says:

    I had to recite this poem with my eighth grade graduation class, 28 years ago, and I can still hear it in my head. It’s powerful and moving – a vivid picture of the Chicago of his time, that wasn’t that different from the Chicago of mine.

  39. Emilee says:

    I think that this is a good poem because it shows patriotism and loyalty to a place. This poem describes how Sandburg loved Chicago. It is obvious in this poem that he is standing up for his city and that he understands that it is not perfect but that he likes it. There may be many bad things in the city but there are many good things too. I think that he wrote this poem because someone said something about the city and he did not like it.

  40. Zaki Omar says:

    Sandburg is vitually unknown to me until I came across the “Chicago” poem. It’s pretty amazing to see how a single man has stand up and defend the city where he belongs though its a common knowledge that Chicago is well known for its high crime rate, probably the highest among all the metropolitans. Anyway, full credit to Sabdburg and I really love this poem very much!

  41. J. Slick says:

    To me, this poem shows how important it is to write about that which we know. Sandburg makes the city come alive with all it’s sweet icing as well as it’s crusty near foul core. The life and energy of the city itself is shown in all it’s clarity.

    Gotta love it!

    Peace,
    Slick

  42. Staci says:

    In a way, Chicago seems like that of a family as he portrays it in this poem. He describes the city and the inhabitants as they work and he defends. He is a defender for a place he calls his home (understood) no matter what problems may be going on; much is the same for a family – in a family who is strong and in love with one another, no matter what happens to the family, they will continually stand up and defend one another.

  43. Erin says:

    I love the way Mr.Sandburg describes Chicago as the people’s town. It may not be perfect, but it’s hard working, and it’s real. I love it, I love everything about this poem. It’s hearty, like meat and potatoes and it really speaks to anyone who’s fought for a place to call home.

  44. andy says:

    i think that this poem is bad, its boring. i love poems but not this one

  45. jj says:

    Carl Sandburg defends the city that most inspored him. He only lived there for the last half of his life. He lived in Galesburg for over 20 years before he went to Chicago to live.

  46. Jerrica says:

    Even though Carl Sandburg is talking about Chicago and he did live there. It was not this home town. Just thought I might state that.

  47. Jahdi Leanillo says:

    Ammmmm…this poem is really inspiring because it shows nationalism, since in this poem Mr. Carl is defending his own country the Chicago although he knew that its really in a bad condition. that’s all and i love you!!!!!

  48. Will Gardner says:

    it is my educated opinion that mr carl is defending his home city of chicago. this city is gettin a bad rap for crime and free sex. though this is true and carl knows it, he stands by chiacgo claiming that all cities have their problems like they do, and they’re getting through it together.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Do you have any comments, criticism, paraphrasis or analysis of this poem that you feel would assist other visitors in understanding the meaning or the theme of this poem better? If they are accepted, they will be added to this page of American Poems. Together we can build a wealth of information, but it will take some discipline and determination.