THE BREAKING POINT
by: Stephen Vincent Benét
- T WAS not
when temptation came,
- Swiftly and blastingly as flame,
- And seared me white with burning scars;
- When I stood up for age-long wars
- And held the very Fiend at grips;
- When all my mutinous body rose
- To range itself beside my foes,
- And, like a greyhound in the slips,
- The beast that dwells within me roared,
- Lunging and straining at his cord. . . .
- For all the blusterings of Hell,
- It was not then I slipped and fell;
- For all the storm, for all the hate,
- I kept my soul inviolate.
- But when the fight was fought and won,
- And there was Peace as still as Death
- On everything beneath the sun.
- Just as I started to draw breath,
- And yawn, and stretch, and pat myself,
- --The grass began to whisper things--
- And every tree became an elf,
- That grinned and chuckled counselings:
- Birds, beasts, one thing alone they said,
- Beating and dinning at my head.
- I could not fly. I could not shun it.
- Slimily twisting, slow and blind,
- It crept and crept into my mind.
- Whispered and shouted, sneered and laughed,
- Screamed out until my brain was daft,
- One snaky word, "What if you'd done it?"
- And I began to think . . .
- Ah, well,
- What matter how I slipped and fell?
- Or you, you gutter-searcher, say!
- Tell where you found me yesterday!
MORE POEMS BY BENÉT
'The Breaking Point' was originally
published by Stephen Vincent Benét in 1918.