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(19 October 1784 – 28 August 1859 / Southgate, London)

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Abou Ben Adhem

Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:—
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the Presence in the room he said
"What writest thou?"—The vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered "The names of those who love the Lord."
"And is mine one?" said Abou. "Nay, not so,"
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerly still, and said "I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow men."

The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blessed,
And lo! Ben Adhem's name led all the rest.


Anonymous Submission

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003


Read poems about / on: angel, peace, dream, night, light, god, love

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Comments about this poem (On Receiving a Crown of Ivy from John Keats by James Henry Leigh Hunt )

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  • Bruce Halliburton (11/30/2013 7:54:00 PM)

    In the 1966 feature length movie ALFIE, the poem “Abou Ben Adhem” is recited by Alfred (Alfie) Elkins to his 2 year old son, Malcolm, as a bedtime “bye-bye”. Alfie stops his delivery after the line The names of those who love the Lord. because Malcolm has finally fallen asleep. “Abou Ben Adhem” is quietly and quickly slipped into the script. I had to look it up to get the full context.

    When he leaves the bedroom Alfie joins Gilda, Malcolm’s mother, in the kitchen. They have a short conversation that completely ends their relationship when Gilda announces she will marry another man. This is the last meaningful contact Alfie has with Gilda and Malcolm.

    Bill Naughton wrote the play ALFIE in 1963 and adapted it into the popular 1966 film. It is the tale of an engaging but totally self-centered Cockney who eventually questions his selfish ways when he realizes his behavior has left him tragically alone.

    Alfie frequently speaks to the audience to clarify his feelings but his words usually are contrary to his actions. This may be the case with his partial delivery of the poem. Apparently he was taught the value of loving his fellow man because he knows the poem very well. Alfie can’t reconcile that ideal with his real world view that says you must beware all affection and look out for yourself first.

    If you missed or forgot about this 1966 movie I hope you can find a copy. It is very much about adult situations.

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  • Naa Ayikailey Adablah (10/31/2013 10:08:00 AM)

    This poem came back to me amazingly easily some 45 years after memorizing it; because I just loved it. I was recently talking to a pair of newlyweds(my niece and her husband) about love for mankind; and it just came back to me. I quoted to them to prove a point and they were mesmerized. It is one of my favourite poems of all time

  • Rajeev Deshpande (7/14/2013 6:29:00 AM)

    This poem is translated in Marathi, titled 'Raja Bhog'. Translated poem is equally beautiful. I learnt it when I was in 4 th primary class. The poem is a classic example of human sentiments, values and sumlimity. Though not very sure, I guess the poem was translated by Marathi poet Vinayak Karandikar.

  • Susan Roach (7/5/2013 7:15:00 AM)

    I have thought of this poem so many times over the years. My teacher, Mrs Cabral, chose it for me to learn and then recite it to the entire school for an elecution competition, I was around 12 years old and was so excited to win. I am almost 63 now and can picture that day like it was yesterday. So happy to find it here. Strangely enough I was relating that story to my 15 year old grand-daughter just a few days ago and said I must remember to Google it. I was so excited to find it today. (Susan Roach.. St Peter's High School, Mumbai 1958-1964)

  • Raana Sidiki (10/5/2012 11:31:00 PM)

    i had this poem in my course in Pakistan forty some years ago. the beauty of a classic is that it is relevant in almost all ages. and its true for this poem in these turbulent times. Ben means son of.

  • David Christopher (4/20/2012 11:01:00 AM)

    Interesting poem. First came across it when I was in La Salle School (Jesselton) eons ago. Well worth revisiting from time to time...

  • Pam Mcandrews (3/8/2012 7:06:00 PM)

    I memorized this poem at Princeton Junior High School in Youngstown, Ohio in the 1960's.
    My teacher was Mr. O'Neal, I think. I loved this poem! It was brought to mind at my Ladies Bible Study today as we contemplated the Lamb's Book of God. I was so excited to locate the whole poem on my first try! Thanks!

  • Gail Cavanaugh (12/19/2011 8:09:00 AM)

    I had to memorize and recite this poem before my 4th grade class. I loved it! I remember the joy my male teacher had in reciting this poem to us. Just reading it brings tear to my eyes.

  • Kanti Khanna (6/15/2010 6:30:00 AM)

    I learnt this poem 50 years ago in my school in Calcutta and it came back to me recently. I've always loved the sentiments behind it. What amaze me are the parallels in my life today. I have extreme love for God and would love to think that I had a special place in His heart. As it happens I belong to a spiritual university based on Mount Abu, Rajasthan, India. In Hindi the word Ben means sister and of course Adam we all know.

  • Georgina Sanders (5/30/2010 2:13:00 AM)

    We had to learn this poem in our middle school. It has always been one of my favourite poems. Yesterday, I was talking about this poem with a friend and I realised had forgotten the lines. I had to look it up and am so glad I found it today. Thank you poemhunter! You've made my day. This poem brings back fond memories of school and my favourite teachers.

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