Wednesday, November 10, 2010

This Is My Beloved

"Because hate is legislated, written into the primer and the testament, shot into our blood and brain like vaccine or vitamins

Because our day is of time, of hours--and the clock-hand turns, closes the circle upon us: and black timeless night sucks us in like quicksand, receives us totally--without a rain check or a parachute, a key to heaven or the last long look

I need love more than ever now ... I need your love---"

I first read these opening lines of Walter Benton's poem, This Is My Beloved, forty three years ago. I remember finding this small volume of verse in a downtown bookstore in Cedar Rapids. By today's standards, $3.95 wasn't much to pay for a book, but at that time in my life, it was a lot. Still, I had to own the most hauntingly beautiful poetry I had ever read.
The book is written in diary form. It covers the beginning of a love affair until its hopeful, hopeless end. Walter Benton was serving as a lieutenant in the Signal Corps of the US Army when he wrote his touching journal. It was published the year I was born, 1943.
I'm sure I stood in the bookstore and read the entire poem - then may have left only to come back the next day to buy the book. The poem was unlike anything I'd ever read. I was so naive then, but I knew eroticism when I read it. I was afraid the clerk would look at me askance when I checked out.
My twenty-fourth year was one of new discoveries. My husband and I were separated. I moved from my small hometown area in SW Iowa all the way across the state to the second largest city in Iowa. I moved away from a family support system to a place where I knew not a single soul. Having my little boy with me kept me steady, but I wanted someone to love. Walter Benton knew the kind of love I was looking for.

Arthur Prysock recorded Benton's words to a background of soft jazz in 1968. I owned this album

as well as Laurence Harvey's reading with Herbie Mann's music.
This version was by far my favourite.

I no longer have my vinyl collection. But after re-reading This Is My Beloved and remembering Laurence Harvey's voice and Herbie Mann's music, I'm thinking of ordering a CD.
"I will be forgetting you each day and every hour. Each night and day, each hour something wonderful and dear of you will ring my heart and knock upon my mind.
Each time I hear Gilbert and Sullivan -- Strauss, see ginkgo trees, read Lewis Carroll: see flowering dogwood or smell locust, acacia, sweet honeysuckle, lily of the valley ... or wild roses."


  1. I still have the vinyl and still remember hearing it on AM radio on a late night show. I was a naive virgin but I knew that this record, a record player and a candle light room, a glass of wine and someone of the opposite sex and I would change my status.
    Unfortunately part of my status was not having a room, access to wine or many insights on meeting the opposite sex in any role other than a friend.
    Did not change the enjoyment of listening to Herbie Mann accompanied by the voice of Laurence Harvey.

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    Version Of This Is My Beloved,It Had A Blue Cover,And Measures About......6" In Lenght And
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  3. "Ramona" your name is a beautiful song.
    I appreciate your description of your discovery of this rich book of poetry. I discovered it also in such a manner, though years before you. I memorized long passages,
    some entire pages. I purchased a copy of a LP albumn recorded before the two you show, and better, by actor John Dall. I had a book of my own poetry published and can only say that I
    experienced such mixed emotions when the reviewer in a major Washington, DC, newspapr said it was "familiar ground" to those who know "This Is My Beloved." I was honored by the comparison, but it was also something of a detraction. One of my verses reads, "And knowing but this: that sometimes from your flock of thoughts one delinquent wren breaks loose and wings its way toward me, I shall be satisfied." Best to you.

  4. I was only 19 and dating a man 10 years older than I. I was in nursing school. I was already more than smitten with this man; and then one night while looking at the ocean through his open sliding glass door he played "This is My Beloved" from his stereo. I was completely mesmerized by the haunting verse as I listened to the sound of the tide rolling in. They became a part of me. And I would never forget the poem or the man or that night. What a priceless memory!! Even though the relationship only lasted one year, he was my first love and that period of time is etched in my mind forevermore.