Stephen Vincent Benet

(1898 - 1943 / Pennsylvania / United States)

American Names

Poem by Stephen Vincent Benet

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.

Topic(s) of this poem: america

Comments about American Names by Stephen Vincent Benet

  • David Toll (12/25/2019 1:59:00 PM)

    How about a New Orleans man to sing me the blues?(Report)Reply

    1 person liked.
    1 person did not like.
  • Reaa Fuerth (10/13/2018 12:35:00 PM)

    How wonderful! He captured that essence that belongs only to us.(Report)Reply

    1 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • Modern Translator (1/23/2018 3:08:00 PM)

    Substitute “and a Muddy Waters to sing me blues” in the next-to-last line of the 4th stanza.(Report)Reply

    4 person liked.
    1 person did not like.
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Poem Submitted: Saturday, January 17, 2015

Poem Edited: Saturday, January 17, 2015

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