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Benet House

  • Benet House
    Augusta State University Campus
    Walton Way
    Augusta, Georgia

    This building served as the commandant's quarters for the Arsenal. Today it is known as Benet House, after Col. J. Walker Benet who commanded the Augusta Arsenal in the years before and during WWI. He was the father of the famous American poet, Stephen Vincent Benet.

    Grant us a common faith
    that man shall know bread and peace—
    that he shall know justice and righteousness,
    freedom and security,
    an equal opportunity and an equal chance
    to do his best not only in our own lands,
    but throughout the world.
    And in that faith let us march
    toward the clean world our hands can make.

    STEPHEN VINCENT BENÉT, Prayer, concluding sentences (1942). Archibald MacLeish, poet and Librarian of Congress, asked Benét to write “The United Nations Prayer” to be used in the celebration of Flag Day, 1942. President Franklin D. Roosevelt used it to close his radio address on Flag Day, June 14, 1942. Adlai E. Stevenson used this final section of the prayer on his Christmas cards in 1964.

    Stephen Vincent Benet is best known for John Brown's Body, 1928, which won a Pulitzer Prize for poetry. At over 300 pages, the poem covers the Civil War from John Brown's raid at Harpers Ferry, W.Va., to peace at Appomattox.

    Stephen Vincent Benét (July 22, 1898 – March 13, 1943), an American author, poet, short story writer and novelistis also remembered for "The Devil and Daniel Webster" and "By the Waters of Babylon".

    Benét was born into an Army family in Fountain Hill, Pennsylvania, near Bethlehem in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley. He spent most of his boyhood in Benicia, California. When his father received a better post at Augusta, Stephen came home and attended Richmond Academy for most of his secondary school years. He graduated from The Albany Academy in Albany, New York and Yale University, where he was a member of Wolf's Head Society and the power behind the Yale Lit, according to Thornton Wilder. He traveled to France where he married Rosemary Carr, also a writer.

    In 1926 Benét returned to France, where he lived for four years, and started to write his poem about the Civil War, John Brown's Body. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1929.

    "So, from a hundred visions, I make one,
    And out of darkness build my mocking sun."

    Already in his childhood, Benét had been fascinated by his father's old Rebellion Records and his Battles and Leaders of the Civil War. While working with poem in France, he collected background material from libraries.

    Seen from the perspective of a young, small town boy, John Brown's Body interweaved stories of historical and fictional figures, from the raid of Harper's Ferry to General Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court House. Benét's collection of verse appeared with the acclaim of critics, although Harriet Moore labelled it a "cinematic epic" in Poetry, and some other critics, in tune with the times, tried to find from it important social issues.

    Margaret Mitchell said John Brown’s Body directly inspired her novel, Gone With the Wind.

    Benet's fantasy short story The Devil and Daniel Webster won an O. Henry Award, and he furnished the material for a one-act opera by Douglas Moore. The story was filmed in 1941 and shown originally under the title All That Money Can Buy.

    Benét died in New York City at the age of 44 of a heart attack. He was awarded a posthumous Pulitzer Prize in 1944 for "Western Star", an unfinished narrative poem on the settling of America.

    It was a line of Benet's poetry that gave the title to Dee Brown's famous history of the destruction of Native American tribes by the United States: Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.

    He also adapted the Roman myth of the rape of the Sabine Women into the story The Sobbin' Women, which in turn was adapted into the movie musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

    John Brown's Body was staged on Broadway in 1953, in a three-person dramatic reading featuring Tyrone Power, Judith Anderson and Raymond Massey, and directed by Charles Laughton.

    Benet's brother, William Rose Benét (1886–1950), was a poet, anthologist and critic who is largely remembered for his desk reference, The Reader's Cyclopedia (1948). His sister, Laura also became a writer.


      © 2007 John Rigdon