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Poem by Stephen Vincent Benet


Elegy for an Enemy


(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 theyТre slitting! 
She was my enemy, 
One of the best of them. 
Would she come back to me, 
God damn the rest of them! 

Damn them, the flabby, fat, 
Sleek little darlings! 
We gave them tit for tat, 
Snarlings for snarlings! 
Squashy pomposities, 
Shocked at our violence, 
Let not one tactful hiss 
Break her new silence! 

Maids of antiquity, 
Look well upon her; 
Ice was her chastity, 
Spotless her honor. 
Neighbors, with breasts of snow, 
Dames of much virtue, 
How she could flame and glow! 
Lord, how she hurt you! 

She was a woman, and 
Tender -- at times! 
(Delicate was her hand) 
One of her crimes! 
Hair that strayed elfinly, 
Lips red as haws, 
You, with the ready lie, 
Was that the cause? 

Rest you, my enemy, 
Slain without fault, 
Life smacks but tastelessly 
Lacking your salt! 
Stuck in a bog whence naught 
May catapult me, 
Come from the grave, long-sought, 
Come and insult me! 

WE knew that sugared stuff 
Poisoned the other; 
Rough as the wind is rough, 
Sister and brother! 
Breathing the ether clear 
Others forlorn have found -- 
Oh, for that peace austere 
She and her scorn have found!



Stephen Vincent Benet


Stephen Vincent Benet's other poems:
  1. Ghosts of a Lunatic Asylum
  2. The Congressmen Came out to See Bull Run
  3. Portrait of a Boy
  4. Before an Examination
  5. Lonely Burial


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