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Stephen Vincent Benet Poems

A collection of select Stephen Vincent Benet famous poems that were written by Stephen Vincent Benet or written about the poet by other famous poets. PoetrySoup is a comprehensive educational resource of the greatest poems and poets on history.

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by Benet, Stephen Vincent
 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...Read More



by Benet, Stephen Vincent
 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...Read More

by Benet, Stephen Vincent
 (For G. H.) 

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...Read More

by Benet, Stephen Vincent
 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,...Read More

by Benet, Stephen Vincent
 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...Read More



by Benet, Stephen Vincent
 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...Read More

by Benet, Stephen Vincent
 Well, I was tired of life; the silly folk, 
The tiresome noises, all the common things 
I loved once, crushed me with an iron yoke. 
I longed for the cool quiet and the dark, 
Under the common sod where louts and kings 
Lie down, serene, unheeding, careless, stark, 
Never to rise or move or feel again, 
Filled with the...Read More

by Benet, Stephen Vincent
 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...Read More

by Benet, Stephen Vincent
 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,...Read More

by Benet, Stephen Vincent
 The last pose flickered, failed. The screen's dead white 
Glared in a sudden flooding of harsh light 
Stabbing the eyes; and as I stumbled out 
The curtain rose. A fat girl with a pout 
And legs like hams, began to sing "His Mother". 
Gusts of bad air rose in a choking smother; 
Smoke, the wet steam of clothes, the...Read More

by Benet, Stephen Vincent
 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...Read More

by Benet, Stephen Vincent
 "Oh yes, I went over to Edmonstoun the other day and saw Johnny, mooning around as usual! He will never make his way." 
Letter of George Keats, 18-- 


Night falls; the great jars glow against the dark, 
Dark green, dusk red, and, like a coiling snake, 
Writhing eternally in smoky gyres, 
Great ropes of gorgeous vapor twist and turn...Read More

by Benet, Stephen Vincent
 Gods, what a black, fierce day! The clouds were iron, 
Wrenched to strange, rugged shapes; the red sun winked 
Over the rough crest of the hairy wood 
In angry scorn; the grey road twisted, kinked, 
Like a sick serpent, seeming to environ 
The trees with magic. All the wood was still -- 

Cracked, crannied pines bent like malicious cripples...Read More

by Benet, Stephen Vincent
 (A Virginia Legend.) 

The Planting of the Hemp.

Captain Hawk scourged clean the seas 
(Black is the gap below the plank) 
From the Great North Bank to the Caribbees 
(Down by the marsh the hemp grows rank). 

His fear was on the seaport towns, 
The weight of his hand held hard the downs. 
And the merchants cursed him, bitter and...Read More

by Benet, Stephen Vincent
 (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...Read More

by Benet, Stephen Vincent
 Eternally the choking steam goes up 
From the black pools of seething oil. . . . 
How merry 
Those little devils are! They've stolen the pitchfork 
From Bel, there, as he slept . . . Look! -- oh look, look! 
They've got at Nero! Oh it isn't fair! 
Lord, how he squeals! Stop it . . . it's, well...Read More

by Benet, Stephen Vincent
 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...Read More

by Benet, Stephen Vincent
 (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...Read More

by Benet, Stephen Vincent
 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,...Read More

by Benet, Stephen Vincent
 "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...Read More