Home > Uncategorized > William Rose Benét: The Red Country

William Rose Benét: The Red Country

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

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William Rose Benét
The Red Country

In the red country
The sky flowers
All day.
Strange mechanical birds
With struts of wire and glazed wings
Cross the impassive sky
Which burgeons ever and again
With ephemeral unfolding flowers,
White and yellow and brown,
That spread and dissolve.
And smaller rapid droning birds go by,
And bright metallic bees whose sting is death,

Behind the hills,
Behind the whispering woods whose leaves are falling
Yellow and red to cover the red clay,
Misshapen monsters squat with wide black maws
Gulping smoke and belching flame.
From the mirk reed beds of the age of coal,
Wallowing out of their sleep in the earlier slime,
They are resurrected and stagger forth to slay –
The prehistoric Beasts we thought were dead.
They are blinded with long sleep,
But men with clever weapons
Goad them to fresh pastures.

Beside still waters
They drink of blood and neigh a horrible laughter,
And their ponderous tread shakes happy cities down,
And the thresh of their flail-like tails
Makes acres smoulder and smoke
Blackened of golden harvest.

The Beasts are back,
And men in their spreading shadow,
Inhale the odor of their nauseous breath.
Inebriate with it they fashion other gods
Than the gods of day-dream.
Of iron and steel are little images
Made of the Beasts.
And men rush forth and fling themselves for ritual
Before these gods, before the lumbering Beasts
And some make long obeisance.

Umber and violet flowers of the sky,
The sun, like a blazing Mars, clanks across the blue.
And plucks you, to fashion into a nosegay
To offer Venus, his old-time paramour.
But now she shrinks
And pales Like Cynthia, her more ascetic sister…
Vulcan came to her arms in the grimy garb
Of toil, he smelt of the forge and the racketing work shop,
But not of blood.
And, if she smells these flowers, they bubble ruby blood
That trickles between her fingers.

Yet is a dream flowing over the red country,
Yet is a light growing, for all the black furrows of the red country…
The machines are foe or friend
As the world desires.
The Beasts shall sleep again.
And in that sleep, when the land is twilight-still
And men take thought among the frozen waves of the dead,
The Sowers go forth once more,
Sowers of vision, sowers of the seed
Of peace or war.
Shall it be peace indeed?
Great shadowy figures moving from hill to hill
Of tangled bodies, with rhythmic stride and cowled averted head,
What do you sow with hands funereal –
New savageries imperial,
Unthinking pomps for arrogant, witless men?
Or seed for the people in strong democracy?
What do you see
With your secret eyes, and sow for us, that we must reap again?

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