“It Out-Herods Herod. Pray You, Avoid It.”

By Anthony Hecht 1923–2004 Anthony Hecht
Tonight my children hunch
Toward their Western, and are glad   
As, with a Sunday punch,
The Good casts out the Bad.

And in their fairy tales
The warty giant and witch
Get sealed in doorless jails
And the match-girl strikes it rich.

I’ve made myself a drink.
The giant and witch are set
To bust out of the clink
When my children have gone to bed.

All frequencies are loud
With signals of despair;
In flash and morse they crowd   
The rondure of the air.

For the wicked have grown strong,   
Their numbers mock at death,   
Their cow brings forth its young,   
Their bull engendereth.

Their very fund of strength,   
Satan, bestrides the globe;
He stalks its breadth and length   
And finds out even Job.

Yet by quite other laws
My children make their case;   
Half God, half Santa Claus,   
But with my voice and face,

A hero comes to save
The poorman, beggarman, thief,   
And make the world behave   
And put an end to grief.

And that their sleep be sound   
I say this childermas
Who could not, at one time,   
Have saved them from the gas.

Anthony Hecht, “ ‘It Out-Herods Herod. Pray You, Avoid It’ ” from Collected Earlier Poems. Copyright © 1990 by Anthony Hecht. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.

Source: Collected Earlier Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, 1990)

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Poet Anthony Hecht 1923–2004

Subjects Living, Parenthood

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

 Anthony  Hecht


One of the leading voices of his generation, Anthony Hecht’s poetry is known for its masterful use of traditional forms and linguistic control. Extraordinarily erudite, Hecht’s verse often features allusions to French literature, Greek myth and tragedy, and English poets and poetry stretching from Wallace Stevens to John Donne. Hecht, who died in 2004, was often described as a “traditionalist.” George P. Elliott contended in the . . .

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SUBJECT Living, Parenthood

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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