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By Carl Sandburg

Lincoln?

He was a mystery in smoke and flags

Saying yes to the smoke, yes to the flags,

Yes to the paradoxes of democracy,

Yes to the hopes of government

Of the people by the people for the people,

No to debauchery of the public mind,

No to personal malice nursed and fed,

Yes to the Constitution when a help,

No to the Constitution when a hindrance

Yes to man as a struggler amid illusions,

Each man fated to answer for himself:

Which of the faiths and illusions of mankind

Must I choose for my own sustaining light

To bring me beyond the present wilderness?


       Lincoln? Was he a poet?

       And did he write verses?

“I have not willingly planted a thorn

       in any man’s bosom.”

I shall do nothing through malice: what

       I deal with is too vast for malice.”


Death was in the air.

So was birth.


Carl Sandburg, from "The People, Yes" from The People, Yes. Copyright © 1936 by Carl Sandburg.  Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Source: The People, Yes (Harcourt Inc., 1936)

  • Mythology & Folklore
  • Social Commentaries

Poet Bio

Carl Sandburg
Though first made famous for the urban aesthetic of his poems about the people and city of Chicago, Carl Sandburg was born with humble working-class roots in Galesburg, Illinois. An activist, poet, and author, he won two Pulitzer Prizes, the first in 1940 for his biography of Abraham Lincoln and the second in 1951 for his Collected Poems. See More By This Poet

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