Get Your Premium Membership

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.

Search and read the best famous Stephen Vincent Benet poems, articles about Stephen Vincent Benet poems, poetry blogs, or anything else Stephen Vincent Benet poem related using the PoetrySoup search engine at the top of the page.

See Also:
Written by Stephen Vincent Benet | Create an image from this poem

The Quality of Courage

 Black trees against an orange sky, 
Trees that the wind shook terribly, 
Like a harsh spume along the road, 
Quavering up like withered arms, 
Writhing like streams, like twisted charms 
Of hot lead flung in snow.
Below The iron ice stung like a goad, Slashing the torn shoes from my feet, And all the air was bitter sleet.
And all the land was cramped with snow, Steel-strong and fierce and glimmering wan, Like pale plains of obsidian.
-- And yet I strove -- and I was fire And ice -- and fire and ice were one In one vast hunger of desire.
A dim desire, of pleasant places, And lush fields in the summer sun, And logs aflame, and walls, and faces, -- And wine, and old ambrosial talk, A golden ball in fountains dancing, And unforgotten hands.
(Ah, God, I trod them down where I have trod, And they remain, and they remain, Etched in unutterable pain, Loved lips and faces now apart, That once were closer than my heart -- In agony, in agony, And horribly a part of me.
For Lethe is for no man set, And in Hell may no man forget.
) And there were flowers, and jugs, bright-glancing, And old Italian swords -- and looks, A moment's glance of fire, of fire, Spiring, leaping, flaming higher, Into the intense, the cloudless blue, Until two souls were one, and flame, And very flesh, and yet the same! As if all springs were crushed anew Into one globed drop of dew! But for the most I thought of heat, Desiring greatly.
Hot white sand The lazy body lies at rest in, Or sun-dried, scented grass to nest in, And fires, innumerable fires, Great fagots hurling golden gyres Of sparks far up, and the red heart In sea-coals, crashing as they part To tiny flares, and kindling snapping, Bunched sticks that burst their string and wrapping And fall like jackstraws; green and blue The evil flames of driftwood too, And heavy, sullen lumps of coke With still, fierce heat and ugly smoke.
And then the vision of his face, And theirs, all theirs, came like a sword, Thrice, to the heart -- and as I fell I thought I saw a light before.
I woke.
My hands were blue and sore, Torn on the ice.
I scarcely felt The frozen sleet begin to melt Upon my face as I breathed deeper, But lay there warmly, like a sleeper Who shifts his arm once, and moans low, And then sinks back to night.
Slow, slow, And still as Death, came Sleep and Death And looked at me with quiet breath.
Unbending figures, black and stark Against the intense deeps of the dark.
Tall and like trees.
Like sweet and fire Rest crept and crept along my veins, Gently.
And there were no more pains.
Was it not better so to lie? The fight was done.
Even gods tire Of fighting.
My way was the wrong.
Now I should drift and drift along To endless quiet, golden peace .
And let the tortured body cease.
And then a light winked like an eye.
And very many miles away A girl stood at a warm, lit door, Holding a lamp.
Ray upon ray It cloaked the snow with perfect light.
And where she was there was no night Nor could be, ever.
God is sure, And in his hands are things secure.
It is not given me to trace The lovely laughter of that face, Like a clear brook most full of light, Or olives swaying on a height, So silver they have wings, almost; Like a great word once known and lost And meaning all things.
Nor her voice A happy sound where larks rejoice, Her body, that great loveliness, The tender fashion of her dress, I may not paint them.
These I see, Blazing through all eternity, A fire-winged sign, a glorious tree! She stood there, and at once I knew The bitter thing that I must do.
There could be no surrender now; Though Sleep and Death were whispering low.
My way was wrong.
Would it mend If I shrank back before the end? And sank to death and cowardice? No, the last lees must be drained up, Base wine from an ignoble cup; (Yet not so base as sleek content When I had shrunk from punishment) The wretched body strain anew! Life was a storm to wander through.
I took the wrong way.
Good and well, At least my feet sought out not Hell! Though night were one consuming flame I must go on for my base aim, And so, perhaps, make evil grow To something clean by agony .
And reach that light upon the snow .
And touch her dress at last .
So, so, I crawled.
I could not speak or see Save dimly.
The ice glared like fire, A long bright Hell of choking cold, And each vein was a tautened wire, Throbbing with torture -- and I crawled.
My hands were wounds.
So I attained The second Hell.
The snow was stained I thought, and shook my head at it How red it was! Black tree-roots clutched And tore -- and soon the snow was smutched Anew; and I lurched babbling on, And then fell down to rest a bit, And came upon another Hell .
Loose stones that ice made terrible, That rolled and gashed men as they fell.
I stumbled, slipped .
and all was gone That I had gained.
Once more I lay Before the long bright Hell of ice.
And still the light was far away.
There was red mist before my eyes Or I could tell you how I went Across the swaying firmament, A glittering torture of cold stars, And how I fought in Titan wars .
And died .
and lived again upon The rack .
and how the horses strain When their red task is nearly done.
I only know that there was Pain, Infinite and eternal Pain.
And that I fell -- and rose again.
So she was walking in the road.
And I stood upright like a man, Once, and fell blind, and heard her cry .
And then there came long agony.
There was no pain when I awoke, No pain at all.
Rest, like a goad, Spurred my eyes open -- and light broke Upon them like a million swords: And she was there.
There are no words.
Heaven is for a moment's span.
And ever.
So I spoke and said, "My honor stands up unbetrayed, And I have seen you.
Dear .
" Sharp pain Closed like a cloak.
I moaned and died.
Here, even here, these things remain.
I shall draw nearer to her side.
Oh dear and laughing, lost to me, Hidden in grey Eternity, I shall attain, with burning feet, To you and to the mercy-seat! The ages crumble down like dust, Dark roses, deviously thrust And scattered in sweet wine -- but I, I shall lift up to you my cry, And kiss your wet lips presently Beneath the ever-living Tree.
This in my heart I keep for goad! Somewhere, in Heaven she walks that road.
Somewhere .
in Heaven .
she walks .
that .

Written by Stephen Vincent Benet | Create an image from this poem

The White Peacock

 (France -- Ancient Regime.
) I.
Go away! Go away; I will not confess to you! His black biretta clings like a hangman's cap; under his twitching fingers the beads shiver and click, As he mumbles in his corner, the shadow deepens upon him; I will not confess! .
Is he there or is it intenser shadow? Dark huddled coilings from the obscene depths, Black, formless shadow, Shadow.
Doors creak; from secret parts of the chateau come the scuffle and worry of rats.
Orange light drips from the guttering candles, Eddying over the vast embroideries of the bed Stirring the monstrous tapestries, Retreating before the sable impending gloom of the canopy With a swift thrust and sparkle of gold, Lipping my hands, Then Rippling back abashed before the ominous silences Like the swift turns and starts of an overpowered fencer Who sees before him Horror Behind him darkness, Shadow.
The clock jars and strikes, a thin, sudden note like the sob of a child.
Clock, buhl clock that ticked out the tortuous hours of my birth, Clock, evil, wizened dwarf of a clock, how many years of agony have you relentlessly measured, Yardstick of my stifling shroud? I am Aumaury de Montreuil; once quick, soon to be eaten of worms.
You hear, Father? Hsh, he is asleep in the night's cloak.
Over me too steals sleep.
Sleep like a white mist on the rotting paintings of cupids and gods on the ceiling; Sleep on the carven shields and knots at the foot of the bed, Oozing, blurring outlines, obliterating colors, Death.
Father, Father, I must not sleep! It does not hear -- that shadow crouched in the corner .
Is it a shadow? One might think so indeed, save for the calm face, yellow as wax, that lifts like the face of a drowned man from the choking darkness.
Out of the drowsy fog my body creeps back to me.
It is the white time before dawn.
Moonlight, watery, pellucid, lifeless, ripples over the world.
The grass beneath it is gray; the stars pale in the sky.
The night dew has fallen; An infinity of little drops, crystals from which all light has been taken, Glint on the sighing branches.
All is purity, without color, without stir, without passion.
Suddenly a peacock screams.
My heart shocks and stops; Sweat, cold corpse-sweat Covers my rigid body.
My hair stands on end.
I cannot stir.
I cannot speak.
It is terror, terror that is walking the pale sick gardens And the eyeless face no man may see and live! Ah-h-h-h-h! Father, Father, wake! wake and save me! In his corner all is shadow.
Dead things creep from the ground.
It is so long ago that she died, so long ago! Dust crushes her, earth holds her, mold grips her.
Fiends, do you not know that she is dead? .
"Let us dance the pavon!" she said; the waxlights glittered like swords on the polished floor.
Twinkling on jewelled snuffboxes, beaming savagely from the crass gold of candelabra, From the white shoulders of girls and the white powdered wigs of men .
All life was that dance.
The mocking, resistless current, The beauty, the passion, the perilous madness -- As she took my hand, released it and spread her dresses like petals, Turning, swaying in beauty, A lily, bowed by the rain, -- Moonlight she was, and her body of moonlight and foam, And her eyes stars.
Oh the dance has a pattern! But the clear grace of her thrilled through the notes of the viols, Tremulous, pleading, escaping, immortal, untamed, And, as we ended, She blew me a kiss from her hand like a drifting white blossom -- And the starshine was gone; and she fled like a bird up the stair.
Underneath the window a peacock screams, And claws click, scrape Like little lacquered boots on the rough stone.
Oh the long fantasy of the kiss; the ceaseless hunger, ceaselessly, divinely appeased! The aching presence of the beloved's beauty! The wisdom, the incense, the brightness! Once more on the ice-bright floor they danced the pavon But I turned to the garden and her from the lighted candles.
Softly I trod the lush grass between the black hedges of box.
Softly, for I should take her unawares and catch her arms, And embrace her, dear and startled.
By the arbor all the moonlight flowed in silver And her head was on his breast.
She did not scream or shudder When my sword was where her head had lain In the quiet moonlight; But turned to me with one pale hand uplifted, All her satins fiery with the starshine, Nacreous, shimmering, weeping, iridescent, Like the quivering plumage of a peacock .
Then her head drooped and I gripped her hair, Oh soft, scented cloud across my fingers! -- Bending her white neck back.
Blood writhed on my hands; I trod in blood.
Stupidly agaze At that crumpled heap of silk and moonlight, Where like twitching pinions, an arm twisted, Palely, and was still As the face of chalk.
The buhl clock strikes.
Thirty years.
Christ, thirty years! Agony.
Something stirs in the window, Shattering the moonlight.
White wings fan.
Father, Father! All its plumage fiery with the starshine, Nacreous, shimmering, weeping, iridescent, It drifts across the floor and mounts the bed, To the tap of little satin shoes.
Gazing with infernal eyes.
Its quick beak thrusting, rending, devil's crimson .
Screams, great tortured screams shake the dark canopy.
The light flickers, the shadow in the corner stirs; The wax face lifts; the eyes open.
A thin trickle of blood worms darkly against the vast red coverlet and spreads to a pool on the floor.
Written by Stephen Vincent Benet | Create an image from this poem

Winged Man

 The moon, a sweeping scimitar, dipped in the stormy straits, 
The dawn, a crimson cataract, burst through the eastern gates, 
The cliffs were robed in scarlet, the sands were cinnabar, 
Where first two men spread wings for flight and dared the hawk afar.
There stands the cunning workman, the crafty past all praise, The man who chained the Minotaur, the man who built the Maze.
His young son is beside him and the boy's face is a light, A light of dawn and wonder and of valor infinite.
Their great vans beat the cloven air, like eagles they mount up, Motes in the wine of morning, specks in a crystal cup, And lest his wings should melt apace old Daedalus flies low, But Icarus beats up, beats up, he goes where lightnings go.
He cares no more for warnings, he rushes through the sky, Braving the crags of ether, daring the gods on high, Black 'gainst the crimson sunset, golden o'er cloudy snows, With all Adventure in his heart the first winged man arose.
Dropping gold, dropping gold, where the mists of morning rolled, On he kept his way undaunted, though his breaths were stabs of cold, Through the mystery of dawning that no mortal may behold.
Now he shouts, now he sings in the rapture of his wings, And his great heart burns intenser with the strength of his desire, As he circles like a swallow, wheeling, flaming, gyre on gyre.
Gazing straight at the sun, half his pilgrimage is done, And he staggers for a moment, hurries on, reels backward, swerves In a rain of scattered feathers as he falls in broken curves.
Icarus, Icarus, though the end is piteous, Yet forever, yea, forever we shall see thee rising thus, See the first supernal glory, not the ruin hideous.
You were Man, you who ran farther than our eyes can scan, Man absurd, gigantic, eager for impossible Romance, Overthrowing all Hell's legions with one warped and broken lance.
On the highest steeps of Space he will have his dwelling-place, In those far, terrific regions where the cold comes down like Death Gleams the red glint of his pinions, smokes the vapor of his breath.
Floating downward, very clear, still the echoes reach the ear Of a little tune he whistles and a little song he sings, Mounting, mounting still, triumphant, on his torn and broken wings!
Written by Stephen Vincent Benet | Create an image from this poem


 My friend went to the piano; spun the stool 
A little higher; left his pipe to cool; 
Picked up a fat green volume from the chest; 
And propped it open.
Whitely without rest, His fingers swept the keys that flashed like swords, .
And to the brute drums of barbarian hordes, Roaring and thunderous and weapon-bare, An army stormed the bastions of the air! Dreadful with banners, fire to slay and parch, Marching together as the lightnings march, And swift as storm-clouds.
Brazen helms and cars Clanged to a fierce resurgence of old wars Above the screaming horns.
In state they passed, Trampling and splendid on and sought the vast -- Rending the darkness like a leaping knife, The flame, the noble pageant of our life! The burning seal that stamps man's high indenture To vain attempt and most forlorn adventure; Romance, and purple seas, and toppling towns, And the wind's valiance crying o'er the downs; That nerves the silly hand, the feeble brain, From the loose net of words to deeds again And to all courage! Perilous and sharp The last chord shook me as wind shakes a harp! .
And my friend swung round on his stool, and from gods we were men, "How pretty!" we said; and went on with our talk again.
Written by Stephen Vincent Benet | Create an image from this poem

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 | Create an image from this poem

Elegy for an Enemy

 (For G.
) Say, does that stupid earth Where they have laid her, Bind still her sullen mirth, Mirth which betrayed her? Do the lush grasses hold, Greenly and glad, That brittle-perfect gold She alone had? Smugly the common crew, Over their knitting, Mourn her -- as butchers do Sheep-throats they're slitting! She was my enemy, One of the best of them.
Would she come back to me, God damn the rest of them! Damn them, the flabby, fat, Sleek little darlings! We gave them tit for tat, Snarlings for snarlings! Squashy pomposities, Shocked at our violence, Let not one tactful hiss Break her new silence! Maids of antiquity, Look well upon her; Ice was her chastity, Spotless her honor.
Neighbors, with breasts of snow, Dames of much virtue, How she could flame and glow! Lord, how she hurt you! She was a woman, and Tender -- at times! (Delicate was her hand) One of her crimes! Hair that strayed elfinly, Lips red as haws, You, with the ready lie, Was that the cause? Rest you, my enemy, Slain without fault, Life smacks but tastelessly Lacking your salt! Stuck in a bog whence naught May catapult me, Come from the grave, long-sought, Come and insult me! WE knew that sugared stuff Poisoned the other; Rough as the wind is rough, Sister and brother! Breathing the ether clear Others forlorn have found -- Oh, for that peace austere She and her scorn have found!
Written by Stephen Vincent Benet | Create an image from this poem

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 | Create an image from this poem

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 | Create an image from this poem


 To W.
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 .
Written by Stephen Vincent Benet | Create an image from this poem

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!