Saturday, October 23, 2010

Nick Visits Chicago

Nick is currently in Illinois visiting Wheaton College, the C.S. Lewis museum located there, and the City of Chicago.  I envy him for the first two, with reservations about the third. I once changed planes in Chicago in one of the rare flights I took across the nation, but have never actually visited the city.  My main connections to the city are as follows:  The 1968 Democratic Convention (a disaster for the nation), famous Chicagoans from Al Capone to Mayor Richard Daley to some others, and Carl Sandburg's poem.  I grew up in the 60s, but know next to nothing of the singing group Chicago.  As you might have figured out, I was Country before Barbara Mandrell was cool. 

Carl Sandburg was a socialist.  His poetry was a rambling, freee verse, Whitmanesque style.  He was a poser.  Robert Frost accused him of standing in front of a mirror messing up his hair before an appearance. He had an obsession with Abraham Lincoln (one of the few sets of books I ever got rid of was Sandburg's Lincoln volumes).  He was mediocre as a poet.  Not only is Frost much better, but even some of the lesser poets of that era, such as John Crowe Ransom and Donald Davidson, were better.  Still, Sandburg could whip out a good poem here and there ("Grass" and "Fog" are favorites of mine), and "Chicago" certainly has a rugged bolsterous sound to it.

And for those who are wondering:  A music blog should include poetry.  Poetry is musical and music is poetic.

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,
Building, 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 the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of
Youth, half-naked, sweating, proud to be Hog
Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with
Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.


  1. I hope he enjoys his time. Joshua and I went to Chicago early last summer and had a great time. Like any city, it has it's charms and its dangers.

  2. Went into Chicago one afternoon while briefly stationed a week or so at Great Lakes upon my return to military service. That was enough of Chicago for me. It did not Make Me Smile.