Steven Vincent Benet

About: Nightmare at Noon, by Stephen Vincent Benét

There are certain words,Our own and others’, we’re used to—words we’ve used,Heard, had to recite, forgotten,Rubbed shiny in the pocket, left home for keepsakes,Inherited, stuck away in the back-drawer,In the locked trunk, at the back of the quiet mind.
Liberty, equality, fraternity.To none will we sell, refuse or deny, right or justice.We hold these truths to be self-evident.
I am merely saying—what if these words pass?What if they pass and are gone and are no more,Eviscerated, blotted out of the world?We’re used to them, so used that we half-forget,The way you forget the looks of your own houseAnd yet you can walk around it, in the darkness.You can’t put a price on sunlight or the air,You can’t put a price on these, so they must be easy.They were bought with belief and passion, at great cost.They were bought with the bitter and anonymous blood Of farmers, teachers, shoemakers and fools[Pg 7]Who broke the old rule and the pride of kings.
The poem is longer & should be read for itself.