Stephen Vincent Benet
Young Blood - Poem by Stephen Vincent Benet
"But, sir," I said, "they tell me the man is like to die!" The Canon shook his head indulgently. "Young blood, Cousin," he boomed. "Young blood! Youth will be served!"
-- D'Hermonville's Fabliaux.
He woke up with a sick taste in his mouth
And lay there heavily, while dancing motes
Whirled through his brain in endless, rippling streams,
And a grey mist weighed down upon his eyes
So that they could not open fully. Yet
After some time his blurred mind stumbled back
To its last ragged memory -- a room;
Air foul with wine; a shouting, reeling crowd
Of friends who dragged him, dazed and blind with drink
Out to the street; a crazy rout of cabs;
The steady mutter of his neighbor's voice,
Mumbling out dull obscenity by rote;
And then . . . well, they had brought him home it seemed,
Since he awoke in bed -- oh, damn the business!
He had not wanted it -- the silly jokes,
"One last, great night of freedom ere you're married!"
"You'll get no fun then!" "H-ssh, don't tell that story!
He'll have a wife soon!" -- God! the sitting down
To drink till you were sodden! . . .
Like great light
She came into his thoughts. That was the worst.
To wallow in the mud like this because
His friends were fools. . . . He was not fit to touch,
To see, oh far, far off, that silver place
Where God stood manifest to man in her. . . .
Fouling himself. . . . One thing he brought to her,
At least. He had been clean; had taken it
A kind of point of honor from the first . . .
Others might do it . . . but he didn't care
For those things. . . .
Suddenly his vision cleared.
And something seemed to grow within his mind. . . .
Something was wrong -- the color of the wall --
The queer shape of the bedposts -- everything
Was changed, somehow . . . his room. Was this his room?
. . . He turned his head -- and saw beside him there
The sagging body's slope, the paint-smeared face,
And the loose, open mouth, lax and awry,
The breasts, the bleached and brittle hair . . . these things.
. . . As if all Hell were crushed to one bright line
Of lightning for a moment. Then he sank,
Prone beneath an intolerable weight.
And bitter loathing crept up all his limbs.
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