PORTRAIT OF A BABY
by: Stephen Vincent Benét
- E LAY within
a warm, soft world
- Of motion. Colors bloomed and fled,
- Maroon and turquoise, saffron, red,
- Wave upon wave that broke and whirled
- To vanish in the grey-green gloom,
- Perspectiveless and shadowy.
- A bulging world that had no walls,
- A flowing world, most like the sea,
- Compassing all infinity
- Within a shapeless, ebbing room,
- An endless tide that swells and falls . . .
- He slept and woke and slept again.
- As a veil drops, Time dropped away;
- Space grew a toy for children's play,
- Sleep bolted fast the gates of Sense--
- He lay in naked impotence;
- Like a drenched moth that creeps and crawls
- Heavily up brown, light-baked walls,
- To fall in wreck, her task undone,
- Yet somehow striving toward the sun.
- So, as he slept, his hands clenched tighter,
- Shut in the old way of a fighter,
- His feet curled up to grip the ground,
- His muscles tautened for a bound;
- And though he felt, and felt alone,
- Strange brightness stirred him to the bone,
- Cravings to rise--till deeper sleep
- Buried the hope, the call, the leap;
- A wind puffed out his mind's faint spark.
- He was absorbed into the dark.
- He woke again and felt a surge
- Within him, a mysterious urge
- That grew one hungry flame of passion;
- The whole world altered shape and fashion.
- Deceived, befooled, bereft and torn,
- He scourged the heavens with his scorn,
- Lifting a bitter voice to cry
- Against the eternal treachery--
- Till, suddenly, he found the breast,
- And ceased, and all things were at rest,
- The earth grew one warm languid sea
- And he a wave. Joy, tingling, crept
- Throughout him. He was quenched and slept.
- So, while the moon made broad her ring,
- He slept and cried and was a king.
- So, worthily, he acted o'er
- The endless miracle once more.
- Facing immense adventures daily,
- He strove still onward, weeping, gayly,
- Conquered or fled from them, but grew
- As soil-starved, rouph pine-saplings do.
- Till, one day, crawling seemed suspect.
- He gripped the air and stood erect
- And splendid. With immortal rage
- He entered on man's heritage!
MORE POEMS BY BENÉT
'Portrait of a Baby' was originally
published by Stephen Vincent Benét in 1918.