John Brown's Body (epic poem)

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John Brown's Body is an epic poem by American poet Stephen Vincent Benét.[1]

History[change | change source]

In 1925 Stephen Vincent Benét decided to write a long poem. With this proposal he approached the Guggenheim Foundation.[1] He asked for 2 500 dollars and got it.[1] Then he went to France. He settled in Paris and began to write. The poem was published in 1928.[1] At once it became very popular. No American poem gained such popularity earlier. Ever Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's works were not so widely read.[1] 130 000 copies of the book were sold during two years.[1] For this poem the poet received the Pulitzer Prize in 1929. Many years later he got the second Pulitzer Prize for the poem Western Star.

Form[change | change source]

The poem in written in many measures. The poet employs both regular blank verse,[2] free verse and different stanzas. This fragment is an example of classical blank verse.

Jack Ellyat had been out all day alone,
Except for his new gun and Ned, the setter,
The old wise dog with Autumn in his eyes,
Who stepped the fallen leaves so delicately
They barely rustled. Ellyat trampled them down
Crackling, like cast-off skins of fairy snakes.
He'd meant to hunt, but he had let the gun
Rest on his shoulder.

From time to time the poet uses alliteration.[3]

Where the skyscrapers lift their foggy plumes
Of stranded smoke out of a stony mouth
You are that high stone and its arrogant fumes,
And you are ruined gardens in the 'South

The story told[change | change source]

John Brown's Body is a poem about Civil War in America. The story begins with John Brown and his deeds.[4] It ends with general Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. In this work historical and fictional persons are presented together.[4] In 1953 Charles Laughton turned the poem into a play.[5] It was performed in many theatres in America.[5]

References[change | change source]

Bibliography[change | change source]