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New York Folklore Quarterly, Vol. XX, No. 4, December 1964

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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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