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Best Famous Stephen Vincent Benet Poems

Here is a collection of the all-time best famous Stephen Vincent Benet poems. This is a select list of the best famous Stephen Vincent Benet poetry. Reading, writing, and enjoying famous Stephen Vincent Benet poetry (as well as classical and contemporary poems) is a great past time. These top poems are the best examples of Stephen Vincent Benet poems.

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Written by Stephen Vincent Benet |

Going Back to School

 The boat ploughed on.
Now Alcatraz was past And all the grey waves flamed to red again At the dead sun's last glimmer.
Far and vast The Sausalito lights burned suddenly In little dots and clumps, as if a pen Had scrawled vague lines of gold across the hills; The sky was like a cup some rare wine fills, And stars came as he watched -- and he was free One splendid instant -- back in the great room, Curled in a chair with all of them beside And the whole world a rush of happy voices, With laughter beating in a clamorous tide.
Saw once again the heat of harvest fume Up to the empty sky in threads like glass, And ran, and was a part of what rejoices In thunderous nights of rain; lay in the grass Sun-baked and tired, looking through a maze Of tiny stems into a new green world; Once more knew eves of perfume, days ablaze With clear, dry heat on the brown, rolling fields; Shuddered with fearful ecstasy in bed Over a book of knights and bloody shields .
The ship slowed, jarred and stopped.
There, straight ahead, Were dock and fellows.
Stumbling, he was whirled Out and away to meet them -- and his back Slumped to the old half-cringe, his hands fell slack; A big boy's arm went round him -- and a twist Sent shattering pain along his tortured wrist, As a voice cried, a bloated voice and fat, "Why it's Miss Nancy! Come along, you rat!"

Written by Stephen Vincent Benet |

Portrait of a Baby

 He lay within a warm, soft world 
Of motion.
Colors bloomed and fled, Maroon and turquoise, saffron, red, Wave upon wave that broke and whirled To vanish in the grey-green gloom, Perspectiveless and shadowy.
A bulging world that had no walls, A flowing world, most like the sea, Compassing all infinity Within a shapeless, ebbing room, An endless tide that swells and falls .
He slept and woke and slept again.
As a veil drops Time dropped away; Space grew a toy for children's play, Sleep bolted fast the gates of Sense -- He lay in naked impotence; Like a drenched moth that creeps and crawls Heavily up brown, light-baked walls, To fall in wreck, her task undone, Yet somehow striving toward the sun.
So, as he slept, his hands clenched tighter, Shut in the old way of the fighter, His feet curled up to grip the ground, His muscles tautened for a bound; And though he felt, and felt alone, Strange brightness stirred him to the bone, Cravings to rise -- till deeper sleep Buried the hope, the call, the leap; A wind puffed out his mind's faint spark.
He was absorbed into the dark.
He woke again and felt a surge Within him, a mysterious urge That grew one hungry flame of passion; The whole world altered shape and fashion.
Deceived, befooled, bereft and torn, He scourged the heavens with his scorn, Lifting a bitter voice to cry Against the eternal treachery -- Till, suddenly, he found the breast, And ceased, and all things were at rest, The earth grew one warm languid sea And he a wave.
Joy, tingling, crept Throughout him.
He was quenched and slept.
So, while the moon made broad her ring, He slept and cried and was a king.
So, worthily, he acted o'er The endless miracle once more.
Facing immense adventures daily, He strove still onward, weeping, gaily, Conquered or fled from them, but grew As soil-starved, rough pine-saplings do.
Till, one day, crawling seemed suspect.
He gripped the air and stood erect And splendid.
With immortal rage He entered on man's heritage!

Written by Stephen Vincent Benet |

The Innovator

 (A Pharaoh Speaks.
) I said, "Why should a pyramid Stand always dully on its base? I'll change it! Let the top be hid, The bottom take the apex-place!" And as I bade they did.
The people flocked in, scores on scores, To see it balance on its tip.
They praised me with the praise that bores, My godlike mind on every lip.
-- Until it fell, of course.
And then they took my body out From my crushed palace, mad with rage, -- Well, half the town WAS wrecked, no doubt -- Their crazy anger to assuage By dragging it about.
The end? Foul birds defile my skull.
The new king's praises fill the land.
He clings to precept, simple, dull; HIS pyramids on bases stand.
But -- Lord, how usual!

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Written by Stephen Vincent Benet |

Ghosts of a Lunatic Asylum

 Here, where men's eyes were empty and as bright 
As the blank windows set in glaring brick, 
When the wind strengthens from the sea -- and night 
Drops like a fog and makes the breath come thick; 

By the deserted paths, the vacant halls, 
One may see figures, twisted shades and lean, 
Like the mad shapes that crawl an Indian screen, 
Or paunchy smears you find on prison walls.
Turn the knob gently! There's the Thumbless Man, Still weaving glass and silk into a dream, Although the wall shows through him -- and the Khan Journeys Cathay beside a paper stream.
A Rabbit Woman chitters by the door -- -- Chilly the grave-smell comes from the turned sod -- Come -- lift the curtain -- and be cold before The silence of the eight men who were God!

Written by Stephen Vincent Benet |


 Tobacco smoke drifts up to the dim ceiling 
From half a dozen pipes and cigarettes, 
Curling in endless shapes, in blue rings wheeling, 
As formless as our talk.
Phil, drawling, bets Cornell will win the relay in a walk, While Bob and Mac discuss the Giants' chances; Deep in a morris-chair, Bill scowls at "Falk", John gives large views about the last few dances.
And so it goes -- an idle speech and aimless, A few chance phrases; yet I see behind The empty words the gleam of a beauty tameless, Friendship and peace and fire to strike men blind, Till the whole world seems small and bright to hold -- Of all our youth this hour is pure gold.

Written by Stephen Vincent Benet |


 (For D.
) The little man with the vague beard and guise Pulled at the wicket.
"Come inside!" he said, "I'll show you all we've got now -- it was size You wanted? -- oh, dry colors! Well" -- he led To a dim alley lined with musty bins, And pulled one fiercely.
Violent and bold A sudden tempest of mad, shrieking sins Scarlet screamed out above the battered gold Of tins and picture-frames.
I held my breath.
He tugged another hard -- and sapphire skies Spread in vast quietude, serene as death, O'er waves like crackled turquoise -- and my eyes Burnt with the blinding brilliance of calm sea! "We're selling that lot there out cheap!" said he.

Written by Stephen Vincent Benet |

The City Revisited

 The grey gulls drift across the bay 
Softly and still as flakes of snow 
Against the thinning fog.
All day I sat and watched them come and go; And now at last the sun was set, Filling the waves with colored fire Till each seemed like a jewelled spire Thrust up from some drowned city.
Soon From peak and cliff and minaret The city's lights began to wink, Each like a friendly word.
The moon Began to broaden out her shield, Spurting with silver.
Straight before The brown hills lay like quiet beasts Stretched out beside a well-loved door, And filling earth and sky and field With the calm heaving of their breasts.
Nothing was gone, nothing was changed, The smallest wave was unestranged By all the long ache of the years Since last I saw them, blind with tears.
Their welcome like the hills stood fast: And I, I had come home at last.
So I laughed out with them aloud To think that now the sun was broad, And climbing up the iron sky, Where the raw streets stretched sullenly About another room I knew, In a mean house -- and soon there, too, The smith would burst the flimsy door And find me lying on the floor.
Just where I fell the other night, After that breaking wave of pain.
-- How they will storm and rage and fight, Servants and mistress, one and all, "No money for the funeral!" I broke my life there.
Let it stand At that.
The waters are a plain, Heaving and bright on either hand, A tremulous and lustral peace Which shall endure though all things cease, Filling my heart as water fills A cup.
There stand the quiet hills.
So, waiting for my wings to grow, I watch the gulls sail to and fro, Rising and falling, soft and swift, Drifting along as bubbles drift.
And, though I see the face of God Hereafter -- this day have I trod Nearer to Him than I shall tread Ever again.
The night is dead.
And there's the dawn, poured out like wine Along the dim horizon-line.
And from the city comes the chimes -- We have our heaven on earth -- sometimes!

Written by Stephen Vincent Benet |

Alexander VI Dines with the Cardinal of Capua

 Next, then, the peacock, gilt 
With all its feathers.
Look, what gorgeous dyes Flow in the eyes! And how deep, lustrous greens are splashed and spilt Along the back, that like a sea-wave's crest Scatters soft beauty o'er th' emblazoned breast! A strange fowl! But most fit For feasts like this, whereby I honor one Pure as the sun! Yet glowing with the fiery zeal of it! Some wine? Your goblet's empty? Let it foam! It is not often that you come to Rome! You like the Venice glass? Rippled with lines that float like women's curls, Neck like a girl's, Fierce-glowing as a chalice in the Mass? You start -- 'twas artist then, not Pope who spoke! Ave Maria stella! -- ah, it broke! 'Tis said they break alone When poison writhes within.
A foolish tale! What, you look pale? Caraffa, fetch a silver cup! .
You own A Birth of Venus, now -- or so I've heard, Lovely as the breast-plumage of a bird.
Also a Dancing Faun, Hewn with the lithe grace of Praxiteles; Globed pearls to please A sultan; golden veils that drop like lawn -- How happy I could be with but a tithe Of your possessions, fortunate one! Don't writhe But take these cushions here! Now for the fruit! Great peaches, satin-skinned, Rough tamarind, Pomegranates red as lips -- oh they come dear! But men like you we feast at any price -- A plum perhaps? They're looking rather nice! I'll cut the thing in half.
There's yours! Now, with a one-side-poisoned knife One might snuff life And leave one's friend with -- "fool" for epitaph! An old trick? Truth! But when one has the itch For pretty things and isn't very rich.
There, eat it all or I'll Be angry! You feel giddy? Well, it's hot! This bergamot Take home and smell -- it purges blood of bile! And when you kiss Bianca's dimpled knee, Think of the poor Pope in his misery! Now you may kiss my ring! Ho there, the Cardinal's litter! -- You must dine When the new wine Is in, again with me -- hear Bice sing, Even admire my frescoes -- though they're nought Beside the calm Greek glories you have bought! Godspeed, Sir Cardinal! And take a weak man's blessing! Help him there To the cool air! .
Lucrezia here? You're ready for the ball? -- He'll die within ten hours, I suppose -- Mhm! Kiss your poor old father, little rose!

Written by Stephen Vincent Benet |

Young Blood

 "But, sir," I said, "they tell me the man is like to die!" The Canon shook his head indulgently.
"Young blood, Cousin," he boomed.
"Young blood! Youth will be served!" -- D'Hermonville's Fabliaux.
He woke up with a sick taste in his mouth And lay there heavily, while dancing motes Whirled through his brain in endless, rippling streams, And a grey mist weighed down upon his eyes So that they could not open fully.
Yet After some time his blurred mind stumbled back To its last ragged memory -- a room; Air foul with wine; a shouting, reeling crowd Of friends who dragged him, dazed and blind with drink Out to the street; a crazy rout of cabs; The steady mutter of his neighbor's voice, Mumbling out dull obscenity by rote; And then .
well, they had brought him home it seemed, Since he awoke in bed -- oh, damn the business! He had not wanted it -- the silly jokes, "One last, great night of freedom ere you're married!" "You'll get no fun then!" "H-ssh, don't tell that story! He'll have a wife soon!" -- God! the sitting down To drink till you were sodden! .
Like great light She came into his thoughts.
That was the worst.
To wallow in the mud like this because His friends were fools.
He was not fit to touch, To see, oh far, far off, that silver place Where God stood manifest to man in her.
Fouling himself.
One thing he brought to her, At least.
He had been clean; had taken it A kind of point of honor from the first .
Others might do it .
but he didn't care For those things.
Suddenly his vision cleared.
And something seemed to grow within his mind.
Something was wrong -- the color of the wall -- The queer shape of the bedposts -- everything Was changed, somehow .
his room.
Was this his room? .
He turned his head -- and saw beside him there The sagging body's slope, the paint-smeared face, And the loose, open mouth, lax and awry, The breasts, the bleached and brittle hair .
these things.
As if all Hell were crushed to one bright line Of lightning for a moment.
Then he sank, Prone beneath an intolerable weight.
And bitter loathing crept up all his limbs.

Written by Stephen Vincent Benet |

Lonely Burial

 There were not many at that lonely place, 
Where two scourged hills met in a little plain.
The wind cried loud in gusts, then low again.
Three pines strained darkly, runners in a race Unseen by any.
Toward the further woods A dim harsh noise of voices rose and ceased.
-- We were most silent in those solitudes -- Then, sudden as a flame, the black-robed priest, The clotted earth piled roughly up about The hacked red oblong of the new-made thing, Short words in swordlike Latin -- and a rout Of dreams most impotent, unwearying.
Then, like a blind door shut on a carouse, The terrible bareness of the soul's last house.

Written by Stephen Vincent Benet |

Portrait of a Boy

 After the whipping he crawled into bed, 
Accepting the harsh fact with no great weeping.
How funny uncle's hat had looked striped red! He chuckled silently.
The moon came, sweeping A black, frayed rag of tattered cloud before In scorning; very pure and pale she seemed, Flooding his bed with radiance.
On the floor Fat motes danced.
He sobbed, closed his eyes and dreamed.
Warm sand flowed round him.
Blurts of crimson light Splashed the white grains like blood.
Past the cave's mouth Shone with a large, fierce splendor, wildly bright, The crooked constellations of the South; Here the Cross swung; and there, affronting Mars, The Centaur stormed aside a froth of stars.
Within, great casks, like wattled aldermen, Sighed of enormous feasts, and cloth of gold Glowed on the walls like hot desire.
Again, Beside webbed purples from some galleon's hold, A black chest bore the skull and bones in white Above a scrawled "Gunpowder!" By the flames, Decked out in crimson, gemmed with syenite, Hailing their fellows with outrageous names, The pirates sat and diced.
Their eyes were moons.
"Doubloons!" they said.
The words crashed gold.

Written by Stephen Vincent Benet |

Nos Immortales

 Perhaps we go with wind and cloud and sun, 
Into the free companionship of air; 
Perhaps with sunsets when the day is done, 
All's one to me -- I do not greatly care; 
So long as there are brown hills -- and a tree 
Like a mad prophet in a land of dearth -- 
And I can lie and hear eternally 
The vast monotonous breathing of the earth.
I have known hours, slow and golden-glowing, Lovely with laughter and suffused with light, O Lord, in such a time appoint my going, When the hands clench, and the cold face grows white, And the spark dies within the feeble brain, Spilling its star-dust back to dust again.

Written by Stephen Vincent Benet |

Road and Hills

 I shall go away 
To the brown hills, the quiet ones, 
The vast, the mountainous, the rolling, 
Sun-fired and drowsy! 

My horse snuffs delicately 
At the strange wind; 
He settles to a swinging trot; his hoofs tramp the dust.
The road winds, straightens, Slashes a marsh, Shoulders out a bridge, Then -- Again the hills.
Unchanged, innumerable, Bowing huge, round backs; Holding secret, immense converse: In gusty voices, Fruitful, fecund, toiling Like yoked black oxen.
The clouds pass like great, slow thoughts And vanish In the intense blue.
My horse lopes; the saddle creaks and sways.
A thousand glittering spears of sun slant from on high.
The immensity, the spaces, Are like the spaces Between star and star.
The hills sleep.
If I put my hand on one, I would feel the vast heave of its breath.
I would start away before it awakened And shook the world from its shoulders.
A cicada's cry deepens the hot silence.
The hills open To show a slope of poppies, Ardent, noble, heroic, A flare, a great flame of orange; Giving sleepy, brittle scent That stings the lungs.
A creeping wind slips through them like a ferret; they bow and dance, answering Beauty's voice .
The horse whinnies.
I dismount And tie him to the grey worn fence.
I set myself against the javelins of grass and sun; And climb the rounded breast, That flows like a sea-wave.
The summit crackles with heat, there is no shelter, no hollow from the flagellating glare.
I lie down and look at the sky, shading my eyes.
My body becomes strange, the sun takes it and changes it, it does not feel, it is like the body of another.
The air blazes.
The air is diamond.
Small noises move among the grass .
Blackly, A hawk mounts, mounts in the inane Seeking the star-road, Seeking the end .
But there is no end.
Here, in this light, there is no end.

Written by Stephen Vincent Benet |

The Breaking Point

 It was not when temptation came, 
Swiftly and blastingly as flame, 
And seared me white with burning scars; 
When I stood up for age-long wars 
And held the very Fiend at grips; 
When all my mutinous body rose 
To range itself beside my foes, 
And, like a greyhound in the slips, 
The Beast that dwells within me roared, 
Lunging and straining at his cord.
For all the blusterings of Hell, It was not then I slipped and fell; For all the storm, for all the hate, I kept my soul inviolate! But when the fight was fought and won, And there was Peace as still as Death On everything beneath the sun.
Just as I started to draw breath, And yawn, and stretch, and pat myself, -- The grass began to whisper things -- And every tree became an elf, That grinned and chuckled counsellings: Birds, beasts, one thing alone they said, Beating and dinning at my head.
I could not fly.
I could not shun it.
Slimily twisting, slow and blind, It crept and crept into my mind.
Whispered and shouted, sneered and laughed, Screamed out until my brain was daft.
One snaky word, "What if you'd done it?" And I began to think .
Ah, well, What matter how I slipped and fell? Or you, you gutter-searcher say! Tell where you found me yesterday!

Written by Stephen Vincent Benet |

Love in Twilight

 There is darkness behind the light -- and the pale light drips 
Cold on vague shapes and figures, that, half-seen loom 
Like the carven prows of proud, far-triumphing ships -- 
And the firelight wavers and changes about the room, 

As the three logs crackle and burn with a small still sound; 
Half-blotting with dark the deeper dark of her hair, 
Where she lies, head pillowed on arm, and one hand curved round 
To shield the white face and neck from the faint thin glare.
Gently she breathes -- and the long limbs lie at ease, And the rise and fall of the young, slim, virginal breast Is as certain-sweet as the march of slow wind through trees, Or the great soft passage of clouds in a sky at rest.
I kneel, and our arms enlace, and we kiss long, long.
I am drowned in her as in sleep.
There is no more pain.
Only the rustle of flames like a broken song That rings half-heard through the dusty halls of the brain.
One shaking and fragile moment of ecstasy, While the grey gloom flutters and beats like an owl above.
And I would not move or speak for the sea or the sky Or the flame-bright wings of the miraculous Dove!