An American Poet Essay

1227 words - 5 pages

An American Poet The introduction to Stephen Vincent Benét from the Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism states: "He conveyed his faith in the enduring existence of America's fundamental ideals: the virtues of the democratic system of government, the possibility of a common spirit unifying a diverse populus , and, most importantly, the value of the individual" (TCLC 68). Stephen Vincent Benét was an American poet whose works were a combination of romanticism (idealized, optimistic view of life) and realism (factual, objective details of ordinary life). Benét was an author who had a profound love and vast knowledge of his homeland: Benét, Stephen Vincent, (b. July 22, 1898, Bethlehem, Pa., U.S. - d. March 13, 1943, New York, NY), American poet, novelist, and writer of short stories, best known for John Brown's Body, a long narrative poem on the American Civil War (Fenton).Born into a military family, Stephen was raised on military posts by his father, Colonel James Benét. "His father read poetry aloud to Stephen, an older brother, William Rose, and a sister, Laura, all of whom became writers" (Fenton). Stephen was 17, a student at Yale University, when he published his first book, entitled Five Men and Pompey (Fenton). "Civilian service during World War I interrupted his education at Yale Univerisity. When the war was over he returned to Yale. In 1919, he received his master of arts degree, submitting his third volume of poems instead of a thesis" (Fenton). A Guggenheim fellowship took him to France, with his wife, the former Rosemary Carr. While there he wrote John Brown's Body (1928), which won (1929) a Pulitzer Prize for poetry (Hart 198). "Over 300 pages, the poem covers the Civil War from John Brown's raid at Harpers Ferry, W. Va., to peace at Appomattox" (198). The second Pulitzer was given posthumously in 1944, for Western Star (1943) , an unfinished narrative poem about movement to the American West (198). "In all, Benét published more than 17 volumes of prose and verse" (Fenton). His best-known short story, "The Devil and Daniel Webster " (1937), a humorous treatment of a theme from folklore, was the basis for an opera, a play, and a motion picture (Fenton).In 1943 Paul Engle stated: "Stephen Vincent Benét's death was a particular loss because he added to the variety of American poetry" (75). Benét had a deep regard for the United States. He believed in this country and how remarkably it permitted human freedom (76). "He knew the misery and corruption, and you'll find them in his books" (76). But, you will also find Benét's fascination to be a place where that reckless and distorted word "liberty" actually means individual rights (76). The strength of his poetry is in the warmth and vigor of human feeling. The romantic message in Benét's poetry was highlighted when Henry Steele Commanger in the New York Herald Weekly, June 27, 1943, stated:...

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