Stephen Vincent Benet published this ode to unique American place names in 1927. In it he honors those odd, little, out-of-the-way places whose names add character and distinction the landscape of our great nation. World War I had ended less than a decade before Benet penned this poem, and he seems to have been showing some concern for the boys who never came home but instead were put to rest in little European towns whose names were so unfamiliar. In his last stanza the poet said that regardless of where his body parts were interred, there would only be one resting place for his heart, someplace uniquely and distinctly American. Wounded Knee served as Stephen Vincent Benet's example.
The final line of the poem, "Bury my heart at Wounded Knee," of course was later lifted from the poem to serve as the title of a book, movie, and song that chronicled military barbarism toward the Native American peoples.
There is also a line in this poem where Benet uses some racist vernacular of the times, much as Twain did in many of his works. Though the line represents an unfortunate choice of words on the part of the poet, it is presented in this space as written and unedited for historical accuracy.
by Stephen Vincent Benet