NEW YORK FOLKLORE QUARTERLY
Vol. XX, No. 4, December, 1964
FOLK ELEMENTS IN JOHN BROWN’S BODY
John T. Flanagan
STEPHEN Vincent Benét came from a military family, a family
not only dedicated to national service but deeply interested
in the national past. His father and grandfather had
been ordnance officers, and Benét spent much of his youth at
arsenals in California, Georgia and New York. Defective vision
prevented Benét from military service himself, but he was brought
up among army traditions. (He once asserted that his father,
Colonel James W. Benét, a competent officer and a perceptive
reader of poetry, was the best man he had ever known.) Throughout
his life military history was a passionate avocation. From
boyhood he read chronicles, memoirs, official records. Moreover,
his dedication to the American past in his creative writing is well
known. John Brown’s Body is, of course, an interpretation of the
Civil War in narrative verse, and the unfinished Western Star was
intended to be a history of American settlement and the westward
extension of the frontier....
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