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Question
Years ago I wrote the script for a celebration of America's bicentennial. I recently rediscovered my forgotten script, and in the margin, written in pencil, is my note "This section is taken from a long narrative poem  called "Pilgrim Passage" by Stephen V. Benet. To verify my notation, I have been searching for such a poem but cannot find it. Can you help?

Here is a portion of the poem that I used:

"Have you heard the news of Virginia? Golden Virginia across the sea! Spread the news!
Let it sink in the hearts of the strange, plain men
Already at odds with government and church,
The men who read their Bibles late in the night,
Dissenter and non-conformist and Puritan....
This year the small band made its decision....."

And later:

"She was a strong ship, with here double decks
High-sterned, slow-moving, chunky, hard to wear out,
Long in the wine trade, smelling of it still.
Slow, roomy, durable, smelling of salt and wine,
A housewife of a ship, not a gallant lady
Who would groan at storms, but get through them and get home,
Like a housewife plodding, market-basket in hand --
The Mayflower -- a common name for ships --"

Anything you can tell me will be greatly appreciated.

The best to you.
Raymond

Answer
Dear Raymond,

This is all I could find:  a poem titled "The Western Star" that contains some of the lines from your quotation:

The Western Star

Gather them up the bright and drowning stars,
The disinherited, the dispossessed,
Have you heard the news from Virginia?
Workless, hopeless, harried by law and the state
Let it sink in the hearts of plain men,
Oh, spread the news
The news of golden Virginia across the sea,
I hear a sound
Like the first, faint roll of thunder, but it is far away
Have you heard the news of Virginia?


Located at http://aeuleaders.net/a/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/20011125spetter_land_that_i_l

Hope this helps.  

Poetry

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Linda Sue Grimes -- Classic Poetry Aide

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Please be aware that my field of expertise is "Classic Poetry." I do not study and write about Hallmark-Card type verse, doggerel, or pornographic versification.

I assist students/readers in understanding the poems most widely studied in high school and college English classes, for example, Emily Dickinson's "Because I could not stop for death," A. E. Housman's "Loveliest of trees," Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken," W. B. Yeats' "The Second Coming," Rabindranath Tagore's "The Journey," Robert Hayden's "Those Winter Sundays," Dana Gioia’s "Words." I direct students/readers to online poetry analyses and/or research sources.

I do not dispense advice on creative writing issues, such as critiquing poems or offering ideas for poems.

Something controversial or provocative about this subject:

Poetry is not so difficult . . . but the claim that "a poem can mean anything you want it to mean" is absurd . . . while there may be room for interpretation, poems are not like clay that you can shape into anything your choose . . . poets express feelings, thoughts, experience . . . the notion that anything a poet writes is as malleable as a piece of modeling clay is insulting and demonstrates ignorance of what poetry, nay language itself, is all about . . . language--including poetry and all other art forms--is about communication . . . if you denigrate "meaning" as a component of poetry, you fail to communicate . . . failure to communicate begins with the lazy mind . . .

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