poem index

About this poet

Stephen Vincent Benét was born July 22, 1898, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, into a military family. His father had a wide appreciation for literature, and Benét's siblings, William Rose and Laura, also became writers. Benét attended Yale University where he published two collections of poetry, Five Men and Pompey (1915), The Drug-Shop (1917). His studies were interrupted by a year of civilian military service; he worked as a cipher-clerk in the same department as James Thurber. He graduated from Yale in 1919, submitting his third volume of poems in place of a thesis. He published his first novel The Beginning of Wisdom in 1921. Benét then moved to France to continue his studies at the Sorbonne and returned to the United States in 1923 with his new wife, the writer Rosemary Carr.

Benét was successful in many different literary forms, which included novels, short stories, screenplays, radio broadcasts, and a libretto for an opera by Douglas Moore based on "The Devil and Daniel Webster." His most famous work is the long poem John Brown's Body for which he received the Pulitzer Prize in 1929—a long narrative poem which interweaves historical and fictional characters to relate important events in the Civil War, from the raid on Harper's Ferry to Lee's surrender at Appomattox. During his lifetime, Benét also received the O. Henry Story Prize, the Roosevelt Medal, and a second Pulitzer Prize in 1944 for the posthumously-published Western Star, the first part of an epic poem based on American history. At the age of 44, Benét suffered a heart attack and died on March 13, 1943, in New York City.

A Selected Bibliography


A Book of Americans (1933)
Ballads and Poems, 1915-1930 (1931)
Five Men and Pompey (1915)
Heavens and Earth (1920)
James Shore's Daughter (1934)
John Brown's Body (1928)
The Burning City (1936)
Western Star (1943)
Young Adventure (1918)


Jean Huguenot (1923)
Short Stories (1942)
Spanish Bayonet (1926)
The Beginning of Wisdom (1921)
Thirteen O'Clock (1937)
Young People's Pride (1922)


The Magic of Poetry and the Poet's Art (1936)


The Headless Horseman (1937)

American Names

Stephen Vincent Benét, 1898 - 1943
I have fallen in love with American names, 
The sharp names that never get fat, 
The snakeskin-titles of mining-claims, 
The plumed war-bonnet of Medicine Hat, 
Tucson and Deadwood and Lost Mule Flat. 

Seine and Piave are silver spoons, 
But the spoonbowl-metal is thin and worn, 
There are English counties like hunting-tunes 
Played on the keys of a postboy's horn, 
But I will remember where I was born. 

I will remember Carquinez Straits, 
Little French Lick and Lundy's Lane, 
The Yankee ships and the Yankee dates 
And the bullet-towns of Calamity Jane. 
I will remember Skunktown Plain. 

I will fall in love with a Salem tree 
And a rawhide quirt from Santa Cruz, 
I will get me a bottle of Boston sea 
And a blue-gum nigger to sing me blues. 
I am tired of loving a foreign muse. 

Rue des Martyrs and Bleeding-Heart-Yard, 
Senlis, Pisa, and Blindman's Oast, 
It is a magic ghost you guard 
But I am sick for a newer ghost, 
Harrisburg, Spartanburg, Painted Post. 

Henry and John were never so 
And Henry and John were always right? 
Granted, but when it was time to go 
And the tea and the laurels had stood all night, 
Did they never watch for Nantucket Light? 

I shall not rest quiet in Montparnasse. 
I shall not lie easy at Winchelsea. 
You may bury my body in Sussex grass, 
You may bury my tongue at Champmedy. 
I shall not be there. I shall rise and pass. 
Bury my heart at Wounded Knee.

Copyright © 1927 by Stephen Vincent Benét, renewed © 1955 by Rosemary Carr Benét. Used with permission of Brandt & Hochman Literary Agents, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this poem may be reproduced in any form without the written consent of the publisher.

Stephen Vincent Benét

Stephen Vincent Benét was born July 22, 1898, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, into

by this poet


When Daniel Boone goes by, at night, 
The phantom deer arise 
And all lost, wild America 
Is burning in their eyes. 
There were three stout pillars that held up all
The weight and tradition of Wingate Hall.
One was Cudjo and one was you
And the third was the mistress, Mary Lou.
Mary Lou Wingate, as slightly made
And as hard to break as a rapier-blade.
Bristol's daughter and Wingate's bride,
Never well since the last child died

(For, though not to, D. M. C.)

The member with the face like a pale ham
Settles his stomachs in the leather chair.
The member with the mustard-color hair
Chats with the member like a curly ram,
Then silence like the shutting of a clam,
Gulps, and slow eating, and the