"They Will Say"
Below is the poem, with analysis at the bottom.


  Of my city the worst that men will ever say is this:
You took little children away from the sun and the dew,
And the glimmers that played in the grass under the
     great sky,
And the reckless rain; you put them between walls
To work, broken and smothered, for bread and wages,
To eat dust in their throats and die empty-hearted
For a little handful of pay and a few Saturday nights.

A Student's Analysis

This poem gives us another look at both the city and its inhabitants.  The poem starts off with "Of my city the worst that men will ever say is this" that really gives you the feeling that the poem will take the same path as "Chicago."  But instead, Sandburg launches into a description of the working class.

This poem really gives us a sense of how rough the city is.  Sandburg shows us that the working population includes kids, who are taught to work their way through life early.  They endure hardships and tough conditions in order just to have "a handful of pay and a few Saturday night."  (Line 8).

The poem still leaves us feeling that it could be worse.  Sandburg gives the reader a feeling that, while the city is rough and hardworking, it's a good city deep down.  If the worst that can be said is that it takes the youth away from children, then at least it's not a city of death and despair.  But he sets the poem up so that it still doesn't take away from the misery of their lives.  This is shown in line 7 when he says "to eat dust in their throats and die empty-hearted."

Overall, this poem shows us that Chicago is a city where you have to work hard just to survive.  There's little luxury in it.  But that's the worst part about the city.

This website is a student project created for the University of Michigan's English 280 class.  Created by Chris Stallman