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Best Famous Stephen Vincent Benet Poems

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by Stephen Vincent Benet | |

Colors

 (For D.
M.
C.
) 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.


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!


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.


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.


by Stephen Vincent Benet | |

A Minor Poet

 I am a shell.
From me you shall not hear The splendid tramplings of insistent drums, The orbed gold of the viol's voice that comes, Heavy with radiance, languorous and clear.
Yet, if you hold me close against the ear, A dim, far whisper rises clamorously, The thunderous beat and passion of the sea, The slow surge of the tides that drown the mere.
Others with subtle hands may pluck the strings, Making even Love in music audible, And earth one glory.
I am but a shell That moves, not of itself, and moving sings; Leaving a fragrance, faint as wine new-shed, A tremulous murmur from great days long dead.


by Stephen Vincent Benet | |

Before an Examination

 The little letters dance across the page, 
Flaunt and retire, and trick the tired eyes; 
Sick of the strain, the glaring light, I rise 
Yawning and stretching, full of empty rage 
At the dull maunderings of a long dead sage, 
Fling up the windows, fling aside his lies; 
Choosing to breathe, not stifle and be wise, 
And let the air pour in upon my cage.
The breeze blows cool and there are stars and stars Beyond the dark, soft masses of the elms That whisper things in windy tones and light.
They seem to wheel for dim, celestial wars; And I -- I hear the clash of silver helms Ring icy-clear from the far deeps of night.


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!


by Stephen Vincent Benet | |

Dedication

 To W.
R.
B.
And so, to you, who always were Perseus, D'Artagnan, Lancelot To me, I give these weedy rhymes In memory of earlier times.
Now all those careless days are not.
Of all my heroes, you endure.
Words are such silly things! too rough, Too smooth, they boil up or congeal, And neither of us likes emotion -- But I can't measure my devotion! And you know how I really feel -- And we're together.
There, enough .
.
.


by Stephen Vincent Benet | |

May Morning

 I lie stretched out upon the window-seat 
And doze, and read a page or two, and doze, 
And feel the air like water on me close, 
Great waves of sunny air that lip and beat 
With a small noise, monotonous and sweet, 
Against the window -- and the scent of cool, 
Frail flowers by some brown and dew-drenched pool 
Possesses me from drowsy head to feet.
This is the time of all-sufficing laughter At idiotic things some one has done, And there is neither past nor vague hereafter.
And all your body stretches in the sun And drinks the light in like a liquid thing; Filled with the divine languor of late spring.


by Stephen Vincent Benet | |

Dinner in a Quick Lunch Room

 Soup should be heralded with a mellow horn, 
Blowing clear notes of gold against the stars; 
Strange entrees with a jangle of glass bars 
Fantastically alive with subtle scorn; 
Fish, by a plopping, gurgling rush of waters, 
Clear, vibrant waters, beautifully austere; 
Roast, with a thunder of drums to stun the ear, 
A screaming fife, a voice from ancient slaughters! 

Over the salad let the woodwinds moan; 
Then the green silence of many watercresses; 
Dessert, a balalaika, strummed alone; 
Coffee, a slow, low singing no passion stresses; 
Such are my thoughts as -- clang! crash! bang! -- I brood 
And gorge the sticky mess these fools call food!


by Stephen Vincent Benet | |

Talk

 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.