HUNT- JAMES LEIGH – ABOU BEN ADHEM – Famous and much loved poem penned sometime between 1909 and 1914. The story it tells is simple enough. Ben Adhem wakes up from a peaceful dream to find that he has a guest in his bedroom – and what a guest. It is an angel. The Angel tells Ben that it is writing the names of everyone who loves God down in a book of gold. Ben asks if his name is included in the list. The angel tells him that he isn’t included. Ben doesn’t seem to be too upset by this and asks the angel to add his name to a list of men who love their fellow men. The angel hears him and leaves, but returns in similar circumstances the next night. It has a new book with it, containing a list of everyone God loves. Ben, as a result of his stated love for humanity, is the first name on the list. The poem has some ambiguity. The religion, which God and his angel represent, is never specified, though the reference to Adhem’s tribe may make the faith Judaism or Islam rather than Christianity. There is a strong air of Eastern mysticism about the work. Another ambiguity is the difference between dream and vision. Ben only sees the angel when he wakes up, not when he sleeps or dreams. There is a hint here that many of us do not look at our world properly. The strongest complication however lies in the shift from religious devotion to Humanism. Ben seems rather defiant in telling the angel that he is willing to put people first in importance instead of God. That God actually rewards that Humanistic stance is what really gives the poem its passion and energy. Deservedly one of the finest poems of the 20th century.