Stephen Vincent Benet

Thomas Jefferson


Thomas Jefferson, 
What do you say 
Under the gravestone 
Hidden away? 

"I was a giver, 
I was a molder, 
I was a builder 
With a strong shoulder." 

Six feet and over, 
Large-boned and ruddy, 
The eyes grey-hazel 
But bright with study. 

The big hands clever 
With pen and fiddle 
And ready, ever, 
For any riddle. 

From buying empires 
To planting 'taters, 
From Declarations 
To trick dumb-waiters. 

"I liked the people, 
The sweat and crowd of them, 
Trusted them always 
And spoke aloud of them. 

"I liked all learning 
And wished to share it 
Abroad like pollen 
For all who merit. 

"I liked fine houses 
With Greek pilasters, 
And built them surely, 
My touch a master's. 

"I liked queer gadgets 
And secret shelves, 
And helping nations 
To rule themselves. 

"Jealous of others? 
Not always candid? 
But huge of vision 
And open-handed. 

"A wild-goose-chaser? 
Now and again, 
Build Monticello, 
You little men! 

"Design my plow, sirs, 
They use it still, 
Or found my college 
At Charlottesville. 

"And still go questing 
New things and thinkers, 
And keep as busy 
As twenty tinkers. 

"While always guarding 
The people's freedom 
You need more hands, sir? 
I didn't need 'em. 

"They call you rascal? 
They called me worse. 
You'd do grand things, sir, 
But lack the purse? 

"I got no riches. 
I died a debtor. 
I died free-hearted 
And that was better. 

"For life was freakish 
But life was fervent, 
And I was always 
Life's willing servant. 

"Life, life's too weighty? 
Too long a haul, sir? 
I lived past eighty. 
I liked it all, sir."