Sunday, June 16, 2019 Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 licence.

Stephen Vincent Benet (1898 – 1943)

American author, poet, short story writer and novelist.
Stephen Vincent Benet
Talking so quietly; when they hear the cars
And the knock at the door, and they look at each other quickly
And the woman goes to the door with a stiff face,
  Smoothing her dress.
"We are all good citizens here. We believe in the Perfect State."
Benet quotes
For those who planned and were leaders and were beaten
And for those, humble and stupid, who had no plan
But were denounced, but were angry, but told a joke,
But could not explain, but were sent away to the camp,
But had their bodies shipped back in the sealed coffins,
"Died of pneumonia." "Died trying to escape."
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.

Benet Stephen Vincent quotes
I am not tired.
I am expectant as a runner is
Before a race, a child before a feast day,
A woman at the gates of life and death,
Expectant for us all, for all of us
Who live and suffer on this little earth
With such small brotherhood. Something begins.
Something is full of change and sparkling stars.
Something is loosed that changes all the world.
Benet Stephen Vincent
If two New Hampshiremen aren't a match for the devil, we might as well give the country back to the Indians.
Stephen Vincent Benet quotes
For the cold of the pistol-butt and the bullet's heat,
For the ropes that choke, the manacles that bind,
The huge voice, metal, that lies from a thousand tubes
And the stuttering machine-gun that answers all.
Stephen Vincent Benet
I knew then that they had been men, neither gods nor demons. It is a great knowledge, hard to tell and believe. They were men they went a dark road, but they were men.
Benet Stephen Vincent quotes
I'm waiting. ... For something new and strange,
Something I've dreamt about in some deep sleep,
Truer than any waking,
Heard about, long ago, so long ago,
In sunshine and the summer grass of childhood,
When the sky seems so near.
I do not know its shape, its will, its purpose
And yet all day its will has been upon me,
More real than any voice I ever heard,
More real than yours or mine or our dead child's,
More real than all the voices there upstairs,
Brawling above their cups, more real than light.
And there is light in it and fire and peace,
Newness of heart and strangeness like a sword,
And all my body trembles under it,
And yet I do not know.
We thought we were done with these things but we were wrong.
We thought, because we had power, we had wisdom.
We thought the long train would run to the end of Time.
We thought the light would increase.
Now the long train stands derailed and the bandits loot it.
Now the boar and the asp have power in our time.
Now the night rolls back on the West and the night is solid.
Our fathers and ourselves sowed dragon's teeth.
Our children know and suffer the armed men.
Benet Stephen Vincent
Now I tell what is very strong magic. I woke in the midst of the night. When I woke, the fire had gone out and I was cold. It seemed to me that all around me there were whisperings and voices. I closed my eyes to shut them out. Some will say that I slept again, but I do not think that I slept. I could feel the spirits drawing my spirit out of my body as a fish is drawn on a line.
Why should I lie about it? I am a priest and the son of a priest. If there are spirits, as they say, in the small Dead Places near us, what spirits must there not be in that great Place of the Gods? And would not they wish to speak? After such long years? I know that I felt myself drawn as a fish is drawn on a line. I had stepped out of my body I could see my body asleep in front of the cold fire, but it was not I. I was drawn to look out upon the city of the gods.
It should have been dark, for it was night, but it was not dark. Everywhere there were lights lines of light circles and blurs of light ten thousand torches would not have been the same. The sky itself was alight you could barely see the stars for the glow in the sky. I thought to myself "This is strong magic" and trembled. There was a roaring in my ears like the rushing of rivers. Then my eyes grew used to the light and my ears to the sound. I knew that I was seeing the city as it had been when the gods were alive.
Stephen Vincent Benet
It's a story they tell in the border country, where Massachusetts joins Vermont and New Hampshire.
Yes, Dan'l Webster's dead or, at least, they buried him. But every time there's a thunderstorm around Marshfield, they say you can hear his rolling voice in the hollows of the sky. And they say that if you go to his grave and speak loud and clear, "Dan'l Webster Dan'l Webster!" the ground'll begin to shiver and the trees begin to shake. And after a while you'll hear a deep voice saying, "Neighbor, how stands the Union?" Then you better answer the Union stands as she stood, rock-bottomed and copper-sheathed, one and indivisible, or he's liable to rear right out of the ground. At least, that's what I was told when I was a youngster.

Stephen Vincent Benet quotes
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.
Stephen Vincent Benet
She is all peace, all quiet,
All passionate desires, the eloquent thunder
Of new, glad suns, shouting aloud for joy,
Over fresh worlds and clean, trampling the air
Like stooping hawks, to the long wind of horns,
Flung from the bastions of Eternity...
And she is the low lake, drowsy and gentle,
And good words spoken from the tongues of friends,
And calmness in the evening, and deep thoughts,
Falling like dreams from the stars' solemn mouths.
All these.
Benet quotes
It is better the truth should come little by little. I have learned that, being a priest. Perhaps, in the old days, they ate knowledge too fast.
Nevertheless, we make a beginning. it is not for the metal alone we go to the Dead Places now there are the books and the writings. They are hard to learn. And the magic tools are broken but we can look at them and wonder. At least, we make a beginning. And, when I am chief priest we shall go beyond the great river. We shall go to the Place of the Gods the place newyork not one man but a company. We shall look for the images of the gods and find the god ASHING and the others the gods Lincoln and Biltmore and Moses. But they were men who built the city, not gods or demons. They were men. I remember the dead man's face. They were men who were here before us. We must build again.
Benet Stephen Vincent
He shall not come to conquest,
The conquest of kings,
But in the bare stable
He shall judge all things.
Benet Stephen Vincent quotes
I'm your narrator. It's my task to say
Just where and how things happen in our play,
Set the bare stage with words instead of props
And keep on talking till the curtain drops. ...
It's an old task old as the human heart,
Old as those bygone players and their art
Who, in old days when faith was nearer earth,
Played out the mystery of Jesus' birth
In hall or village green or market square
For all who chose to come and see them there,
And, if they knew that King Herod, in his crown,
Was really Wat, the cobbler of the town,
And Tom, the fool, played Abraham the Wise,
They did not care. They saw with other eyes.
The story was their own not far away,
As real as if it happened yesterday,
Full of all awe and wonder yet so near,
A marvelous thing that could have happened here
In their own town a star that could have blazed
On their own shepherds, leaving them amazed,
Frightened and questioning and following still
To the bare stable and the miracle.
Stephen Vincent Benet
If the hunters think we do all things by chants and spells, they may believe so it does not hurt them. I was taught how to read in the old books and how to make the old writings that was hard and took a long time. My knowledge made me happy it was like a fire in my heart. Most of all, I liked to hear of the Old Days and the stories of the gods.
Stephen Vincent Benet quotes
Something begins, begins;
Starlit and sunlit, something walks abroad
In flesh and spirit and fire.
Something is loosed to change the shaken world.
Stephen Vincent Benet
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.
Benet Stephen Vincent
God pity us indeed, for we are human,
And do not always see
The vision when it comes, the shining change,
Or, if we see it, do not follow it,
Because it is too hard, too strange, too new,
Too unbelievable, too difficult,
Warring too much with common, easy ways,
And now I know this, standing in this light,
Who have been half alive these many years,
Brooding on my own sorrow, my own pain,
Saying "I am a barren bough. Expect
Nor fruit nor blossom from a barren bough."

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