John Brown's Body

John Brown's Body

by Stephen Vincent Benet


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One of the most widely read poems of our time, John Brown’s Body is Stephen Vincent Benét’s masterful retelling of the Civil War. A book of great energy and sweep, it swings into view the entire course of that terrible and decisive war, lighting up the lives of soldiers, leaders, and civilians, North and South, amidst the conflict. Generations of readers have found the book a compelling and moving experience. "Magnificently readable."—New Statesman. "It is not one of your tours de forces of intellect and technique, to be admired and then tucked away on the library shelf. It is a library of storytelling itself, a poem extraordinarily rich in action as well as actors, vivid, varied, and so expressive of many men and moods that prose could never have carried its electric burden."—Saturday Review. "A remarkable piece of imaginative reporting; and one in which not only the forces which make history are embodied in the speech and action of very diverse men and women but the ideas also of which these forces were the driving power."—London Times Literary Supplement.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780848809164
Publisher: Amereon, Limited
Publication date: 12/01/1982
Edition description: Reprint

About the Author

Stephen Vincent Benét (1898–1943) was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1929 for John Brown’s Body. In his prose and poetry he often retold American history, folktales, and legends. Among his many other works is The Devil and Daniel Webster.

What People are Saying About This

W.E.B. DuBois

John Brown taught us that the cheapest price to pay for liberty is its cost today.

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John Brown's Body 2.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
jppoetryreader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wow is my response to this incredibly ambitious book-length treatment of the Civil War using poetry in a variety of forms. This is a complex book and I find that it isn't accurately treated in a lot of descriptions of it, especially those that call it narrative and blank verse. Though it has narrative strings, they are broken by multiple perspectives, as well as expository and lyrical sections (making it arguably modern). There is blank verse (his best), free verse, prose, ballads, rhymed couplets in tetrameter (his worst), etc. It is primarily a book of many voices and perspectives providing a broad experience of the tragedy of the Civil War.I discovered this book at my local library and decided I should read it since I have an interest in longer works. Notice I said "should" rather than wanted to. I'm not a history buff, especially not a fan of war stories. Also, when I first cracked the book to get a feel for it, I struck an early saccharine passage about Sally Dupre (who is not so sweet and simple as she develops). Uhg. I suspected there would be a lot of that but thankfully there isn't. Benet also tends to juxtapose more sentimental/saccharine passages against those that are stark portrayals of harsh realities (in fact, some of the juxtapositions are brilliant). Sometimes he uses sing-songy rhymed couplets for subject matter that makes the whole passage ironic.It amazes me that this book has not been a subject of more serious criticism, but I can guess why. The poetry, though it has stellar moments, is not stellar overall. Some of it could simply have been prose; where meter/rhyme is used, it can be clunky. Though I eventually came to watch carefully when he slipped into couplets for how he was using the form to underscore an event or personality or turn it on its head, I still cringed as I read.Yet the book is complex and fascinating. It does not take a simplistic or even heroic view of this conflict, which is what I suspected/expected. The men/boys are imperfect, good some days and in some circumstances and not so admirable during others. Not only did I get caught up in the tapestry that Benet weaves, but at the end I would have been happy (were there not already too many books and too little time) to turn around and begin again because I think the second read would have been richer now that I see all he was trying to accomplish--all that he eventually portrays about war, being human, being American, America itself, about being flawed and the outcomes of actions large and small. The book also made me curious about the battles of the Civil War and the key players than I ever have been.So Wow. Definitely a keeper.
Guest More than 1 year ago
An incredible book that provides history through poetry. It is also a reminder of the customs of life (mostly Biblical) that originated from that time period. There was still a very English lifestyle during that time. A very passionate piece of work. -Neil
Guest More than 1 year ago
its was boreing to read. im going to burn my copy.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really did not like John Brown's Body because it was long and boring and I don't like American history. I don't recommend this book to anyone.