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A Million Young Workmen

by Carl Sandburg, 1918

A million young workmen straight and strong lay stiff on the grass and roads,
 And the million are now under soil and their rottening flesh will in the years feed roots of blood-red roses.
 Yes, this million of young workmen slaughtered one another and never saw their red hands.
 And oh, it would have been a great job of killing and a new and beautiful thing under the sun if the million knew why they hacked and tore each other to death.
 The kings are grinning, the kaiser and the czar—they are alive riding in leather-seated motor cars, and they have their women and roses for ease, and they eat fresh-poached eggs for breakfast, new butter on toast, sitting in tall water-tight houses reading the news of war.
 I dreamed a million ghosts of the young workmen rose in their shirts all soaked in crimson... and yelled:
 God damn the grinning kings, God damn the kaiser and the czar.

Chicago, 1915.

Published in Cornhuskers

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