Stephen Vincent Benet

(1898 - 1943 / Pennsylvania / United States)

Minor Litany - Poem by Stephen Vincent Benet

This being a time confused and with few clear stars,
Either private ones or public,
Out of its darkness I make a litany
For the lost, for the half-lost, for the desperate,
For all those who suffer, not in the flesh,
I will say their name, but not yet.

This is for those
Who talk to the bearded man in the quiet office,
Sensibly, calmly, explaining just how it was,
And suddenly burst into noisy, quacking tears;
For those who live through the party, wishing for death;
For those who take the sensible country walks,
Wondering if people stare;
For those who try to hook rugs in the big, bright room
And do it badly and are pleased with the praise;
For the night and the fear and the demons of the night;
For the lying back on the couch and the wincing talk.

This is for those
Who work and those who may not,
For those who suddenly come to a locked door,
And the work falls out of their hands;
For those who step off the pavement into hell,
Having not observed the red light and the warning signals
Because they were busy or ignorant or proud.

This is for those
Who are bound in the paper chains
That are stronger than links of iron; this is for those
Who each day heave the papier-mâché rock
Up the huge and burning hill,
And there is no rock and no hill, but they do not know it.

This is for those
Who wait till six for the drink,
Till eleven for the tablet;
And for those who long for the darkness but do not go,
Who walk to the window and see the body falling,
Hear the thud of air in the ears,
And then turn back to the room and sit down again,
None having observed the occurrence but themselves.

Christ, have mercy upon us.
Freud, have mercy upon us.
Life, have mercy upon us.

This is for those
Who painfully haul the dark fish out of the dark,
The child's nightmare, embalmed in its own pain,
And, after that, get well or do not get well,
But do no t forget the sulphur in the mouth
Or the time when the world was different, not for awhile.
And for those also, the veterans
Of another kind of war,
Who say 'No thanks' to the cocktails, who say 'No thanks.
Well, yes, give me Coca-Cola' with the trained smile,
Those who hid the bottles so cleverly in the trunk,
Who bribed the attendant, who promised to be good,
Who woke in the dirty bed in the unknown town.
They are cured, now, very much cured.
They are tanned and fine. Their eyes are their only scars.

This is for those
With the light white scars on the wrists,
Who remember the smell of gas and the vomiting,
And it meant little and it is a well-known symptom
And they were always careful to phone, before.
Nevertheless, they remember.

This is for those
Who heard the music suddenly get too loud,
Who could not alter their fancy when it came.

Chloral, have mercy upon us.
Amytal, have mercy upon us.
Nembutal, have mercy upon us.

This occurs more or less than it did in the past times.
There are statistics. There are no real statistics.
There is also no heroism. There is merely
Fatigue, pain, great confusion, sometimes recovery.

The name, as you know, is Legion.
What's your name, friend? Where are you from and how did
you get here?
The name is Legion. It's Legion in the case history.
Friends, Romans, countrymen,
Mr. and Mrs., legion is the name.

Topic(s) of this poem: veteran


Comments about Minor Litany by Stephen Vincent Benet

There is no comment submitted by members..



Read this poem in other languages

This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.

I would like to translate this poem »

word flags


Poem Submitted: Monday, August 31, 2015



[Report Error]