How to Catch Unicorns

How to Catch Unicorns by William Rose Bénet

ITS cloven hoofprint on the sand
Will lead you—where?
Into a phantasmagoric land—

There all the bright streams run up-hill.
The birds on every tree are still.
But from stocks and stones, clear voices come
That should be dumb.

If you have taken along a net,
A noose, a prod,
You’ll be waiting in the forest yet…

In a virgin’s lap the beast slept sound,
They say … but I—
I think (Is anyone around?)
That’s lust a lie!

If you have taken a musketoon
To flinders ’twill flash ‘neath the wizard moon.
So I should take browned batter-cake,
Hot-buttered inside, like foam to flake.

And I should take an easy heart
And a whimsical face,
And a tied-up lunch of sandwich and tart,
And spread a cloth in the open chase.
And then I should pretend to snore…

And I’d hear a snort and I’d hear a roar,
The wind of a mane and a tail, and four
Wild hoofs prancing the forest-floor.

And I’d open my eyes on a flashing horn—
And see the Unicorn!

Paladins fierce and virgins sweet…
But he’s never had anything to eat!
Knights have tramped in their iron-mong’ry…
But nobody thought—that’s all!—he’s hungry!


Really hungry! Good Lord deliver us,
The Unicorn is not carnivorous!

from Modern American Poetry
The Unicorn is not carnivorous!


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