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

Poetry

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)

Fiction

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

Non-Fiction

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

Plays

The Headless Horseman (1937)

Daniel Boone

Stephen Vincent Benét, 1898 - 1943
1735-1820


When Daniel Boone goes by, at night, 
The phantom deer arise 
And all lost, wild America 
Is burning in their eyes. 

Copyright © 1933 by Stephen Vincent Benét, renewed © 1961 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

poem
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
poem

(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

poem
It rained a lot that spring. You woke in the morning
And saw the sky still clouded, the streets still wet,
But nobody noticed so much, except the taxis
And the people who parade. You don't, in a city.
The parks got very green. All the trees were green
Far into July and August, heavy with leaf,
Heavy with leaf