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Stephen Vincent Benet (Стивен Винсент Бене)

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!

Stephen Vincent Benet's other poems:
  1. Rain after a Vaudeville Show
  2. The City Revisited
  3. Nightmare Number Three
  4. Winged Man
  5. The Congressmen Came out to See Bull Run

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