A note to the listener: this book was written in 1918 and uses the common language of that time. That includes frequent instances of the use of words referring to African-Americans and people of Central European ancestry that are today unacceptable. We do well to listen to the way even our great poets once spoke, so that we do not forget that we once spoke that way.
Carl Sandburg fixed his eyes on the people of his time and place. He ignored or scorned the wealthy, the comfortable, the complacent, the powerful and those who serve them; he had no time for the ruling class. His eyes were open to the immigrant, the laborer, the hobo, the farmer, the man who works with his hands, the woman who runs a family, the soldier who goes to war for them. Not for him the Man of the Masses from a left-wing poster, ruddy and muscular; he knew the reality of the laborer - the bad food, the burden of disease, the crushed mind. He saw his people and he saw them plain.
He saw them against the background of war. World War I was taking the sons of his people and sending them across an ocean to fight - for what? He ends his book with a vivid vision of the Four Brothers - America, England, France and Russia - marching heroically against the Kaiser, but he gets there only after unflinchingly fixing his eyes upon the horrors of war, the trench running wth blood, the mutilated soldier gasping for water.
He saw them against an economy that pitted the have-nots against the haves, a government rife with corruption, a society built to look the other way.
Most of all, he saw them part of a world that is fundamentally a world of beauty, a world that could have humanity as part of that beauty, if only humankind could find its way back to its own nature.Enjoy his unique voice, his special vision, his gift for the natural language of his time and place, and his skill with that language.
Public Domain (P)2011 Robert Bethune