John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave.
Spread over it the bloodstained flag of his song,
For the sun to bleach, the wind and the birds to tear,
The snow to cover over with a pure fleece
And the New England cloud to work upon
With the grey absolution of its slow, most lilac-smelling rain,
Until there is nothing there
That ever knew a master or a slave
Or, brooding on the symbol of a wrong,
Threw down the irons in the field of peace.
John Brown is dead, he will not come again,
A stray ghost-walker with a ghostly gun.
John Brown's Body (1928) is an epic American poem written by Stephen Vincent Benét. Its title references the radical abolitionist John Brown, who raided the federal armory at Harpers Ferry in Virginia in October 1859. He was captured and hanged later that year. Benét's poem covers the history of the American Civil War. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1929. It was written while Benét lived in Paris after receiving a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1926.
The poem was performed on Broadway in 1953 in a staged dramatic reading starring Tyrone Power, Judith Anderson, and Raymond Massey, and directed by Charles Laughton. In 2015 the recorded performance was selected for inclusion in the Library of Congress's National Recording Registry for the recording's "cultural, artistic and/or historical significance to American society and the nation’s audio legacy".
In 2002, the poem, transformed into a play, was performed in San Quentin State Prison by prisoners. The 2013 documentary film John Brown's Body at San Quentin Prison recounts the story of the production of the play.
- "John Brown's Body". Project Gutenberg Australia. Retrieved 5 March 2021.
- Peterson, Merrill D. (2002). John Brown: The Legend Revisited. University of Virginia Press. pp. 110. ISBN 978-0-8139-2132-7.
- Blight, David W. (November 14, 2001). "John Brown: Triumphant Failure". The American Prospect. Archived from the original on 28 September 2020. Retrieved 19 September 2020.
- Parini, J. (2004). The Oxford Encyclopedia of American Literature. Oxford reference library. p. 164. ISBN 978-0-19-515653-9. Archived from the original on September 28, 2020. Retrieved August 6, 2019.
- "National Recording Registry To "Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive"". the Library of Congress. 25 March 2015. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
- Steven Winn (November 19, 2002). "Drama behind bars / San Quentin inmates taste freedom performing a play about slavery and liberation". San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on February 18, 2017. Retrieved September 28, 2020.
- "The John Brown's Body Project". Archived from the original on 2020-02-24. Retrieved 2020-09-28.
- "John Brown's Body at San Quentin Prison". Kanopy. Archived from the original on 2018-11-11. Retrieved 2020-09-28.
- Benét, Stephen Vincent. 1928. John Brown's Body. Chicago: Elephant Paperback.
- Oates, Stephen B. 1984. To Purge This Land With Blood: A Biography of John Brown. Boston: University of Massachusetts Press. Google Reader 
- West Virginia Archives and History 
- John J. Miller, "'John Brown's Body' Exhumed," Wall Street Journal, October 15, 2009
- Project Gutenberg: John Brown's Body (1928) (full text)