The General Public
by Stephen Vincent Benet
“Ah, did you once see Shelley plain?” — Browning.
“Shelley? Oh, yes, I saw him often then,”
The old man said. A dry smile creased his face
With many wrinkles. “That’s a great poem, now!
That one of Browning’s! Shelley? Shelley plain?
The time that I remember best is this —
A thin mire crept along the rutted ways,
And all the trees were harried by cold rain
That drove a moment fiercely and then ceased,
Falling so slow it hung like a grey mist
Over the school. The walks were like blurred glass.
The buildings reeked with vapor, black and harsh
Against the deepening darkness of the sky;
And each lamp was a hazy yellow moon,
Filling the space about with golden motes,
And making all things larger than they were.
One yellow halo hung above a door,
That gave on a black passage. Round about
Struggled a howling crowd of boys, pell-mell,
Pushing and jostling like a stormy sea,
With shouting faces, turned a pasty white
By the strange light, for foam. They all had clods,
Or slimy balls of mud. A few gripped stones.
And there, his back against the battered door,
His pile of books scattered about his feet,
Stood Shelley while two others held him fast,
And the clods beat upon him. `Shelley! Shelley!’
The high shouts rang through all the corridors,
`Shelley! Mad Shelley! Come along and help!’
And all the crowd dug madly at the earth,
Scratching and clawing at the streaming mud,
And fouled each other and themselves. And still
Shelley stood up. His eyes were like a flame
Set in some white, still room; for all his face
Was white, a whiteness like no human color,
But white and dreadful as consuming fire.
His hands shook now and then, like slender cords
Which bear too heavy weights. He did not speak.
So I saw Shelley plain.”
“And you?” I said.
“I? I threw straighter than the most of them,
And had firm clods. I hit him — well, at least
Thrice in the face. He made good sport that night.”
And that’s the End of the Poem
© Poetry Monster, 2021.
Poetry Monster — the ultimate repository of world poetry.
Poetry Monster — the multilingual library of poetic works. Here you’ll find original poems, poetry translations, ancient verses, ballads and even folk tales.
Poetry Monster (or even The Poetry Monster) — is also an international multilingual community of poets and poetry connoisseurs. Join us:
Some external links: The Bat’s Poetry Cave. — Fledermaus’s poetry site. Talking Writing Monster. — the irreverent and irrelevant chatter on subjects both serious and not quite. A free for all board. You can scribble anything on it without registration (but it doesn’t let spammers in). You can even post your poems. Qwant.com. — a search engine from France. It’s an alternative because there are a few alternatives, like Bing, Duckduckgo, and Ecosia. And there is Yandex, the ultimate language-oriented search engine for the Russophone world. Commercial Links: Russian Commerce – the foreign trade assistance agency Other links: Poems and poetry in Russian (if you are reading this in English, as you obviously are, then you’d have to switch the language, the language switch is on the menu. More on languages)