There are three principal speaking parts, plus a chorus that speaks and sings. Though this is technically an epic poem, it is actually a highly dramatic work with a quality of excitement unrivaled by many plays. The poem begins with John Brown's attack on Harper's Ferry and goes on through the Civil War, telling much of it from the points of view of Jack Ellyat, a Northern soldier, and Clay Wingate, a Southern soldier. The families and backgrounds of both men are woven into the action of the poem, as are their romances.
This is the adaptation of Stephen Vincent Benét's great poem which was originally presented on Broadway by Tyrone Power, Judith Anderson and Raymond Massey, and was just as successfully produced Off-Broadway, in somewhat revised form, under the direction of Curtis Canfield of Yale University, with music by Fenno Heath.