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Friday, July 27, 2012

Young Blood by Stephen Vincent Benet

"But, sir," I said, "they tell me the man is like to die!" The Canon shook his head indulgently. "Young blood, Cousin," he boomed. "Young blood! Youth will be served!" 
-- D'Hermonville's Fabliaux. 

He woke up with a sick taste in his mouth 
And lay there heavily, while dancing motes 
Whirled through his brain in endless, rippling streams, 
And a grey mist weighed down upon his eyes 
So that they could not open fully. Yet 
After some time his blurred mind stumbled back 
To its last ragged memory -- a room; 
Air foul with wine; a shouting, reeling crowd 
Of friends who dragged him, dazed and blind with drink 
Out to the street; a crazy rout of cabs; 
The steady mutter of his neighbor's voice, 
Mumbling out dull obscenity by rote; 
And then . . . well, they had brought him home it seemed, 
Since he awoke in bed -- oh, damn the business! 
He had not wanted it -- the silly jokes, 
"One last, great night of freedom ere you're married!" 
"You'll get no fun then!" "H-ssh, don't tell that story! 
He'll have a wife soon!" -- God! the sitting down 
To drink till you were sodden! . . . 
Like great light 
She came into his thoughts. That was the worst. 
To wallow in the mud like this because 
His friends were fools. . . . He was not fit to touch, 
To see, oh far, far off, that silver place 
Where God stood manifest to man in her. . . . 
Fouling himself. . . . One thing he brought to her, 
At least. He had been clean; had taken it 
A kind of point of honor from the first . . . 
Others might do it . . . but he didn't care 
For those things. . . . 
Suddenly his vision cleared. 
And something seemed to grow within his mind. . . . 
Something was wrong -- the color of the wall -- 
The queer shape of the bedposts -- everything 
Was changed, somehow . . . his room. Was this his room? 

. . . He turned his head -- and saw beside him there 
The sagging body's slope, the paint-smeared face, 
And the loose, open mouth, lax and awry, 
The breasts, the bleached and brittle hair . . . these things. 
. . . As if all Hell were crushed to one bright line 
Of lightning for a moment. Then he sank, 
Prone beneath an intolerable weight. 
And bitter loathing crept up all his limbs.

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