James Henry Leigh Hunt

(19 October 1784 – 28 August 1859 / Southgate, London)

Abou Ben Adhem


Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:—
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the Presence in the room he said
"What writest thou?"—The vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered "The names of those who love the Lord."
"And is mine one?" said Abou. "Nay, not so,"
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerly still, and said "I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow men."

The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blessed,
And lo! Ben Adhem's name led all the rest.


Anonymous Submission

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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  • Veteran Poet - 4,495 Points * Sunprincess * (6/18/2014 1:39:00 PM)

    ...............truly this is a heart touching write..... and so easily can bring tears....definitely adding this one to my poem collection.... (Report) Reply

  • Veteran Poet - 4,495 Points Bruce Halliburton (11/30/2013 7:54:00 PM)

    In the 1966 feature length movie ALFIE, the poem “Abou Ben Adhem” is recited by Alfred (Alfie) Elkins to his 2 year old son, Malcolm, as a bedtime “bye-bye”. Alfie stops his delivery after the line The names of those who love the Lord. because Malcolm has finally fallen asleep. “Abou Ben Adhem” is quietly and quickly slipped into the script. I had to look it up to get the full context.

    When he leaves the bedroom Alfie joins Gilda, Malcolm’s mother, in the kitchen. They have a short conversation that completely ends their relationship when Gilda announces she will marry another man. This is the last meaningful contact Alfie has with Gilda and Malcolm.

    Bill Naughton wrote the play ALFIE in 1963 and adapted it into the popular 1966 film. It is the tale of an engaging but totally self-centered Cockney who eventually questions his selfish ways when he realizes his behavior has left him tragically alone.

    Alfie frequently speaks to the audience to clarify his feelings but his words usually are contrary to his actions. This may be the case with his partial delivery of the poem. Apparently he was taught the value of loving his fellow man because he knows the poem very well. Alfie can’t reconcile that ideal with his real world view that says you must beware all affection and look out for yourself first.

    If you missed or forgot about this 1966 movie I hope you can find a copy. It is very much about adult situations. (Report) Reply

  • Veteran Poet - 4,495 Points Naa Ayikailey Adablah (10/31/2013 10:08:00 AM)

    This poem came back to me amazingly easily some 45 years after memorizing it; because I just loved it. I was recently talking to a pair of newlyweds(my niece and her husband) about love for mankind; and it just came back to me. I quoted to them to prove a point and they were mesmerized. It is one of my favourite poems of all time (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 0 Points Rajeev Deshpande (7/14/2013 6:29:00 AM)

    This poem is translated in Marathi, titled 'Raja Bhog'. Translated poem is equally beautiful. I learnt it when I was in 4 th primary class. The poem is a classic example of human sentiments, values and sumlimity. Though not very sure, I guess the poem was translated by Marathi poet Vinayak Karandikar. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 0 Points Susan Roach (7/5/2013 7:15:00 AM)

    I have thought of this poem so many times over the years. My teacher, Mrs Cabral, chose it for me to learn and then recite it to the entire school for an elecution competition, I was around 12 years old and was so excited to win. I am almost 63 now and can picture that day like it was yesterday. So happy to find it here. Strangely enough I was relating that story to my 15 year old grand-daughter just a few days ago and said I must remember to Google it. I was so excited to find it today. (Susan Roach.. St Peter's High School, Mumbai 1958-1964) (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 0 Points Raana Sidiki (10/5/2012 11:31:00 PM)

    i had this poem in my course in Pakistan forty some years ago. the beauty of a classic is that it is relevant in almost all ages. and its true for this poem in these turbulent times. Ben means son of. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 0 Points David Christopher (4/20/2012 11:01:00 AM)

    Interesting poem. First came across it when I was in La Salle School (Jesselton) eons ago. Well worth revisiting from time to time... (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 0 Points Pam Mcandrews (3/8/2012 7:06:00 PM)

    I memorized this poem at Princeton Junior High School in Youngstown, Ohio in the 1960's.
    My teacher was Mr. O'Neal, I think. I loved this poem! It was brought to mind at my Ladies Bible Study today as we contemplated the Lamb's Book of God. I was so excited to locate the whole poem on my first try! Thanks! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 0 Points Gail Cavanaugh (12/19/2011 8:09:00 AM)

    I had to memorize and recite this poem before my 4th grade class. I loved it! I remember the joy my male teacher had in reciting this poem to us. Just reading it brings tear to my eyes. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 0 Points Kanti Khanna (6/15/2010 6:30:00 AM)

    I learnt this poem 50 years ago in my school in Calcutta and it came back to me recently. I've always loved the sentiments behind it. What amaze me are the parallels in my life today. I have extreme love for God and would love to think that I had a special place in His heart. As it happens I belong to a spiritual university based on Mount Abu, Rajasthan, India. In Hindi the word Ben means sister and of course Adam we all know. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 0 Points Georgina Sanders (5/30/2010 2:13:00 AM)

    We had to learn this poem in our middle school. It has always been one of my favourite poems. Yesterday, I was talking about this poem with a friend and I realised had forgotten the lines. I had to look it up and am so glad I found it today. Thank you poemhunter! You've made my day. This poem brings back fond memories of school and my favourite teachers. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 0 Points Sheril Smith (5/25/2010 4:11:00 PM)

    I learned this poem in the 4th grade by my all-time favorite teacher, Miss Sue Taylor. She enhanced out learning by teaching us poetry and songs. I don't know what happened to her, but she left our school the following year. I think I learned more from her than any other teacher in my entire academic career. I, like other posters here, still have this poem committed to memory. If anyone knows how to get in contact with Ms. Taylor, please let me know. I'm on Facebook. By the way, I just came across this poem today on the Washington Post's online crossword puzzle. There's one answer I could surely answer! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 0 Points Joe Cornes (3/12/2010 2:42:00 PM)

    I was once again reminded of my early teens whilst reading Abou Ben Adhem, I was taken back to a sunny August in the early 1980’s, sitting in my class gazing dreamily out of the window, the sun on my face and listening to the note filled voice Mr Jack Tarr my eccentric English teacher. He would read it aloud as though he were an actor and sometimes, believe it or not! standing on his head up on his desk…True! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 0 Points Sameer Gardner (2/3/2010 1:33:00 AM)

    'Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold, ' volumes can be written on this one line this is what poetry is all about (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 0 Points Jozef Van Wyck (11/25/2009 4:09:00 PM)

    When I was a boy I used to listen to this poem recited by my Grandfather
    Raymond Henry Van Wyck complete with beautiful strains of brahms
    symphony recorded on a reel to reel. I memorized it yet it just is not the
    same without the background symphony playing and a toastmasters
    diction really putting you in a deep dream of sleep! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 0 Points Denvil Martin (11/18/2009 10:40:00 AM)

    This is just awsome! Thank you Google and Poet Hunter! I learnt this poem in Jamaica when I was 14 years old. I am now 51. I have been trying for many years to find it because I had forgotten three of the lines. I was overjoyed when I found it. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 0 Points Flora O'barr (11/19/2008 3:09:00 PM)

    My grandmother loved poetry and she memorized those that particularly pleased her. She was 104 when she passed away in 1983. My sister and I vividly remember her repeating this poem. We learned Abou Ben Adhem in Junior high school and since it was already a favorite of hours, remembered most of the words-but not all. My sister is 82 and I have just celebrated my 75 birthday. Both of us have grandchildren, who have never been blessed with Leigh Hunt's poetry. Til Now. Thanks for the memory. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 0 Points Michelle Charlton (9/13/2008 10:24:00 AM)

    My mum who is 81 came to visit today. I was telling her about my son having to ask an older person what they were taught when they were at school in RE for his homework and my mother recited this poem. She said that she remembered this because her teacher would not let the pupils leave the classroom until they could recite this poem word for word. To this day she can remember it. It brings her fond memories of her teacher Miss. Gillespie who she says was a wonderful person. I was astonished to log on the computer and see so many comments from people of my mother's age about this poem. I am going to print the comments and let her see them. I am sure they will be of great interest to her. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 0 Points Mike Fine (6/9/2008 5:25:00 PM)

    Read this poem 63 years ago and never forgot it. Brings tears to my eyes just looking at it.And I am not a religious person, Just feel that it was written about me... (Report) Reply

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