Spoon River Anthology - Edgar Lee Masters - ebook

This one-of-a-kind masterpiece is a classic of American literature. In Spoon River Anthology, Kansas-born poet and playwright Edgar Lee Masters channels the imagined voices of the deceased men, women, and children buried in a cemetery in rural Illinois. Haunting and ethereal, inspiring and unforgettable, these poems will remain etched in readers' memories.

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Spoon River Anthology

Edgar Lee Masters


Spoon River Anthology

by Edgar Lee Masters


Armstrong, Hannah

Arnett, Harold

Atherton, Lucius

Ballard, John

Barker, Amanda

Barrett, Pauline

Bartlett, Ezra

Bateson, Marie

Beatty, Tom

Beethoven, Isaiah

Bennett, Hon. Henry

Bindle, Nicholas

Blind Jack

Bliss, Mrs. Charles

Blood, A. D.

Bloyd, Wendell P.

Bone, Richard

Branson, Caroline

Brown, Jim

Brown, Sarah

Browning, Elijah

Burleson, John Horace

Butler, Roy

Cabanis, Flossie

Calhoun, Granville

Calhoun, Henry C.

Campbell, Calvin

Carman, Eugene

Cheney, Columbus

Childers, Elizabeth

Church, John M.

Churchill, Alfonso

Circuit Judge, The

Clapp, Homer

Clark, Nellie

Clute, Aner

Compton, Seth Conant, Edith

Culbertson, E. C.

Davidson, Robert

Dement, Silas

Dixon, Joseph

Drummer, Frank

Drummer, Hare

Dunlap, Enoch

Dye, Shack

Ehrenhardt, Imanuel

Fallas, State's Attorney

Fawcett, Clarence

Fluke, Willard

Foote, Searcy

Ford, Webster

Fraser, Benjamin

Fraser, Daisy

French, Charlie

Frickey, Ida

Garber, James

Gardner, Samuel

Garrick, Amelia

Godbey, Jacob

Goldman, Le Roy

Goode, William

Goodpasture, Jacob

Graham, Magrady

Gray, George

Green, Ami

Greene, Hamilton

Griffy the Cooper

Gustine, Dorcas

Hainsfeather, Barney

Hamblin, Carl

Hatfield, Aaron

Hawkins, Elliott

Hawley, Jeduthan

Henry, Chase

Herndon, William H.

Heston, Roger

Higbie, Archibald

Hill, Doc

Hill, The

Hoheimer, Knowlt

Holden, Barry

Hookey, Sam

Howard, Jefferson

Hueffer, Cassius

Hummel, Oscar

Humphrey, Lydia

Hutchins, Lambert

Hyde, Ernest

James, Godwin

Jones, Fiddler

Jones, Franklin

Jones, "Indignation"

Jones, Minerva

Jones, William

Karr, Elmer

Keene, Jonas

Kessler, Bert

Kessler, Mrs.

Killion, Captain Orlando

Kincaid, Russell

King, Lyman

Knapp, Nancy

Konovaloff, Ippolit

Kritt, Dow

Layton, Henry

M'Cumber, Daniel

McDowell, Rutherford

McFarlane, Widow

McGee, Fletcher

McGee, Ollie

M'Grew, Jennie

M'Grew, Mickey

McGuire, Jack

McNeely, Mary

McNeely, Washington

Malloy, Father

Many Soldiers

Marsh, Zilpha

Marshall, Herbert

Mason, Serepta

Matheny, Faith

Matlock, Davis

Matlock, Lucinda

Melveny, Abel

Merritt, Mrs.

Merritt, Tom

Metcalf, Willie

Meyers, Doctor

Meyers, Mrs.

Micure, Hamlet

Miles, I. Milton

Miller, Julia

Miner, Georgine Sand

Moir, Alfred

Newcomer, Professor

Osborne, Mabel

Otis, John Hancock

Pantier, Benjamin

Pantier, Mrs. Benjamin

Pantier, Reuben

Peet, Rev. Abner

Pennington, Willie

Penniwit, the Artist

Petit, the Poet

Phipps, Henry

Poague, Peleg

Pollard, Edmund

Potter, Cooney

Puckett, Lydia

Purkapile, Mrs.

Purkapile, Roscoe

Putt, Hod

Reece, Mrs. George

Rhodes, Ralph

Rhodes, Thomas

Richter, Gustav

Robbins, Hortense

Roberts, Rosie

Ross, Thomas, Ir.

Russian Sonia

Rutledge, Anne

Sayre, Johnnie

Scates, Hiram

Schirding, Albert

Schmidt, Felix

Scott, Julian

Sewall, Harlan

Sharp, Percival

Shaw, "Ace"

Shelley, Percy Bysshe

Shope, Tennessee Claflin

Sibley, Amos

Sibley, Mrs.

Simmons, Walter

Sissman, Dillard

Slack, Margaret Fuller

Smith, Louise

Somers, Jonathan Swift

Somers, Judge

Sparks, Emily

Spooniad, The

Standard, W. Lloyd Garrison

Stewart, Lillian

Tanner, Robert Fulton

Taylor, Deacon

Theodore the Poet

Throckmorton, Alexander

Tompkins, Josiah

Town Marshal, The

Trainor, the Druggist

Trevelyan, Thomas

Trimble, George

Tripp, Henry

Tubbs, Hildrup

Turner, Francis

Tutt, Oaks

Unknown, The

Village Atheist, The

Wasson, John

Weirauch, Adam

Weldy, "Butch"

Wertman, Elsa

Whedon, Editor

Whitney, Harmon

Wiley, Rev. Lemuel

Will, Arlo

William and Emily

Williams, Dora

Williams, Mrs.

Wilmans, Harry

Witt, Zenas

Yee Bow

Zoll, Perry

The Hill

Where are Elmer, Herman, Bert, Tom and Charley,

The weak of will, the strong of arm, the clown, the boozer, the fighter?

All, all are sleeping on the hill.

One passed in a fever,

One was burned in a mine,

One was killed in a brawl,

One died in a jail,

One fell from a bridge toiling for children and wife—

All, all are sleeping, sleeping, sleeping on the hill.

Where are Ella, Kate, Mag, Lizzie and Edith,

The tender heart, the simple soul, the loud, the proud, the happy one?—

All, all are sleeping on the hill.

One died in shameful child-birth,

One of a thwarted love,

One at the hands of a brute in a brothel,

One of a broken pride, in the search for heart's desire;

One after life in far-away London and Paris

Was brought to her little space by Ella and Kate and Mag—

All, all are sleeping, sleeping, sleeping on the hill.

Where are Uncle Isaac and Aunt Emily,

And old Towny Kincaid and Sevigne Houghton,

And Major Walker who had talked

With venerable men of the revolution?—

All, all are sleeping on the hill.

They brought them dead sons from the war,

And daughters whom life had crushed,

And their children fatherless, crying—

All, all are sleeping, sleeping, sleeping on the hill.

Where is Old Fiddler Jones

Who played with life all his ninety years,

Braving the sleet with bared breast,

Drinking, rioting, thinking neither of wife nor kin,

Nor gold, nor love, nor heaven?

Lo! he babbles of the fish-frys of long ago,

Of the horse-races of long ago at Clary's Grove,

Of what Abe Lincoln said

One time at Springfield.

Hod Putt

HERE I lie close to the grave

Of Old Bill Piersol,

Who grew rich trading with the Indians, and who

Afterwards took the Bankrupt Law

And emerged from it richer than ever

Myself grown tired of toil and poverty

And beholding how Old Bill and other grew in wealth

Robbed a traveler one Night near Proctor's Grove,

Killing him unwittingly while doing so,

For which I was tried and hanged.

That was my way of going into bankruptcy.

Now we who took the bankrupt law in our respective ways

Sleep peacefully side by side.

Ollie McGee

Have you seen walking through the village

A Man with downcast eyes and haggard face?

That is my husband who, by secret cruelty

Never to be told, robbed me of my youth and my beauty;

Till at last, wrinkled and with yellow teeth,

And with broken pride and shameful humility,

I sank into the grave.

But what think you gnaws at my husband's heart?

The face of what I was, the face of what he made me!

These are driving him to the place where I lie.

In death, therefore, I am avenged.

Fletcher McGee

She took my strength by minutes,

She took my life by hours,

She drained me like a fevered moon

That saps the spinning world.

The days went by like shadows,

The minutes wheeled like stars.

She took the pity from my heart,

And made it into smiles.

She was a hunk of sculptor's clay,

My secret thoughts were fingers:

They flew behind her pensive brow

And lined it deep with pain.

They set the lips, and sagged the cheeks,

And drooped the eye with sorrow.

My soul had entered in the clay,

Fighting like seven devils.

It was not mine, it was not hers;

She held it, but its struggles

Modeled a face she hated,

And a face I feared to see.

I beat the windows, shook the bolts.

I hid me in a corner

And then she died and haunted me,

And hunted me for life.

Robert Fulton Tanner

IF a man could bite the giant hand

That catches and destroys him,

As I was bitten by a rat

While demonstrating my patent trap,

In my hardware store that day.

But a man can never avenge himself

On the monstrous ogre Life.

You enter the room—thats being born;

And then you must live—work out your soul,

Aha! the bait that you crave is in view:

A woman with money you want to marry,

Prestige, place, or power in the world.

But theres work to do and things to conquer—

Oh, yes! the wires that screen the bait.

At last you get in—but you hear a step:

The ogre, Life, comes into the room,

(He was waiting and heard the clang of the spring)

To watch you nibble the wondrous cheese,

And stare with his burning eyes at you,

And scowl and laugh, and mock and curse you,

Running up and down in the trap,

Until your misery bores him.

Cassius Hueffer

THEY have chiseled on my stone the words:

"His life was gentle, and the elements so mixed in him

That nature might stand up and say to all the world,

This was a man."

Those who knew me smile

As they read this empty rhetoric.

My epitaph should have been:

"Life was not gentle to him,

And the elements so mixed in him

That he made warfare on life

In the which he was slain."

While I lived I could not cope with slanderous tongues,

Now that I am dead I must submit to an epitaph

Graven by a fool!

Serepta Mason

MY life's blossom might have bloomed on all sides

Save for a bitter wind which stunted my petals

On the side of me which you in the village could see.

From the dust I lift a voice of protest:

My flowering side you never saw!

Ye living ones, ye are fools indeed

Who do not know the ways of the wind

And the unseen forces

That govern the processes of life.

Amanda Barker

HENRY got me with child,

Knowing that I could not bring forth life

Without losing my own.

In my youth therefore I entered the portals of dust.

Traveler, it is believed in the village where I lived

That Henry loved me with a husband's love

But I proclaim from the dust

That he slew me to gratify his hatred.

Chase Henry

IN life I was the town drunkard;

When I died the priest denied me burial

In holy ground.

The which redounded to my good fortune.

For the Protestants bought this lot,

And buried my body here,

Close to the grave of the banker Nicholas,

And of his wife Priscilla.

Take note, ye prudent and pious souls,

Of the cross—currents in life

Which bring honor to the dead, who lived in shame

Judge Somers

How does it happen, tell me,

That I who was most erudite of lawyers,

Who knew Blackstone and Coke

Almost by heart, who made the greatest speech

The court-house ever heard, and wrote

A brief that won the praise of Justice Breese

How does it happen, tell me,

That I lie here unmarked, forgotten,

While Chase Henry, the town drunkard,

Has a marble block, topped by an urn

Wherein Nature, in a mood ironical,

Has sown a flowering weed?

Benjamin Pantier

TOGETHER in this grave lie Benjamin Pantier, attorney at law,

And Nig, his dog, constant companion, solace and friend.

Down the gray road, friends, children, men and women,

Passing one by one out of life, left me till I was alone

With Nig for partner, bed-fellow; comrade in drink.

In the morning of life I knew aspiration and saw glory,

The she, who survives me, snared my soul

With a snare which bled me to death,

Till I, once strong of will, lay broken, indifferent,

Living with Nig in a room back of a dingy office.

Under my Jaw-bone is snuggled the bony nose of Nig

Our story is lost in silence. Go by, Mad world!

Mrs. Benjamin Pantier

I know that he told that I snared his soul

With a snare which bled him to death.

And all the men loved him,

And most of the women pitied him.

But suppose you are really a lady, and have delicate tastes,

And loathe the smell of whiskey and onions,

And the rhythm of Wordsworth's "Ode" runs in your ears,

While he goes about from morning till night

Repeating bits of that common thing;

"Oh, why should the spirit of mortal be proud?"

And then, suppose;

You are a woman well endowed,

And the only man with whom the law and morality

Permit you to have the marital relation

Is the very man that fills you with disgust

Every time you think of it while you think of it

Every time you see him?

That's why I drove him away from home

To live with his dog in a dingy room

Back of his office.

Reuben Pantier

WELL, Emily Sparks, your prayers were not wasted,

Your love was not all in vain.

I owe whatever I was in life

To your hope that would not give me up,

To your love that saw me still as good.

Dear Emily Sparks, let me tell you the story.

I pass the effect of my father and mother;

The milliner's daughter made me trouble

And out I went in the world,

Where I passed through every peril known

Of wine and women and joy of life.

One night, in a room in the Rue de Rivoli,

I was drinking wine with a black-eyed cocotte,

And the tears swam into my eyes.

She though they were amorous tears and smiled

For thought of her conquest over me.

But my soul was three thousand miles away,

In the days when you taught me in Spoon River.

And just because you no more could love me,

Nor pray for me, nor write me letters,

The eternal silence of you spoke instead.

And the Black-eyed cocotte took the tears for hers,

As well as the deceiving kisses I gave her.

Somehow, from that hour, I had a new vision

Dear Emily Sparks!

Emily Sparks

Where is my boy, my boy

In what far part of the world?

The boy I loved best of all in the school?—

I, the teacher, the old maid, the virgin heart,

Who made them all my children.

Did I know my boy aright,

Thinking of him as a spirit aflame,

Active, ever aspiring?

Oh, boy, boy, for whom I prayed and prayed

In many a watchful hour at night,

Do you remember the letter I wrote you

Of the beautiful love of Christ?

And whether you ever took it or not,

My, boy, wherever you are,

Work for your soul's sake,

That all the clay of you, all of the dross of you,

May yield to the fire of you,

Till the fire is nothing but light!…

Nothing but light!

Trainor, the Druggist

Only the chemist can tell, and not always the chemist,

What will result from compounding

Fluids or solids.

And who can tell

How men and women will interact

On each other, or what children will result?

There were Benjamin Pantier and his wife,

Good in themselves, but evil toward each other;

He oxygen, she hydrogen,

Their son, a devastating fire.

I Trainor, the druggist, a miser of chemicals,

Killed while making an experiment,

Lived unwedded.

Daisy Fraser

Did you ever hear of Editor Whedon

Giving to the public treasury any of the money he received

For supporting candidates for office?

Or for writing up the canning factory

To get people to invest?

Or for suppressing the facts about the bank,

When it was rotten and ready to break?

Did you ever hear of the Circuit Judge

Helping anyone except the "Q" railroad,

Or the bankers? Or did Rev. Peet or Rev. Sibley

Give any part of their salary, earned by keeping still,

Or speaking out as the leaders wished them to do,

To the building of the water works?

But I Daisy Fraser who always passed

Along the street through rows of nods and smiles,

And caughs and words such as "there she goes."

Never was taken before Justice Arnett

Without contributing ten dollars and costs

To the school fund of Spoon River!

Benjamin Fraser

THEIR spirits beat upon mine

Like the wings of a thousand butterflies.

I closed my eyes and felt their spirits vibrating.

I closed my eyes, yet I knew when their lashes

Fringed their cheeks from downcast eyes,

And when they turned their heads;

And when their garments clung to them,

Or fell from them, in exquisite draperies.

Their spirits watched my ecstasy

With wide looks of starry unconcern.

Their spirits looked upon my torture;

They drank it as it were the water of life;

With reddened cheeks, brightened eyes,

The rising flame of my soul made their spirits gilt,

Like the wings of a butterfly drifting suddenly into sunlight.

And they cried to me for life, life, life.

But in taking life for myself,

In seizing and crushing their souls,

As a child crushes grapes and drinks

From its palms the purple juice,

I came to this wingless void,

Where neither red, nor gold, nor wine,

Nor the rhythm of life are known.

Minerva Jones

I AM Minerva, the village poetess,

Hooted at, jeered at by the Yahoos of the street

For my heavy body, cock-eye, and rolling walk,

And all the more when "Butch" Weldy

Captured me after a brutal hunt.

He left me to my fate with Doctor Meyers;

And I sank into death, growing numb from the feet up,

Like one stepping deeper and deeper into a stream of ice.

Will some one go to the village newspaper,

And gather into a book the verses I wrote?—

I thirsted so for love

I hungered so for life!

"Indignation" Jones

You would not believe, would you

That I came from good Welsh stock?

That I was purer blooded than the white trash here?

And of more direct lineage than the

New Englanders And Virginians of Spoon River?

You would not believe that I had been to school

And read some books.

You saw me only as a run-down man

With matted hair and beard

And ragged clothes.

Sometimes a man's life turns into a cancer

From being bruised and continually bruised,

And swells into a purplish mass

Like growths on stalks of corn.

Here was I, a carpenter, mired in a bog of life

Into which I walked, thinking it was a meadow,

With a slattern for a wife, and poor Minerva, my daughter,

Whom you tormented and drove to death.

So I crept, crept, like a snail through the days

Of my life.

No more you hear my footsteps in the morning,

Resounding on the hollow sidewalk

Going to the grocery store for a little corn meal

And a nickel's worth of bacon.

"Butch" Weldy

AFTER I got religion and steadied down

They gave me a job in the canning works,

And every morning I had to fill

The tank in the yard with gasoline,

That fed the blow-fires in the sheds

To heat the soldering irons.

And I mounted a rickety ladder to do it,

Carrying buckets full of the stuff.

One morning, as I stood there pouring,

The air grew still and seemed to heave,

And I shot up as the tank exploded,

And down I came with both legs broken,

And my eyes burned crisp as a couple of eggs.

For someone left a blow—fire going,

And something sucked the flame in the tank.

The Circuit Judge said whoever did it

Was a fellow-servant of mine, and so

Old Rhodes' son didn't have to pay me.

And I sat on the witness stand as blind

As lack the Fiddler, saying over and over,

"I didn't know him at all."

Doctor Meyers

No other man, unless it was Doc Hill,

Did more for people in this town than I.

And all the weak, the halt, the improvident

And those who could not pay flocked to me.

I was good-hearted, easy Doctor Meyers.

I was healthy, happy, in comfortable fortune,

Blest with a congenial mate, my children raised,

All wedded, doing well in the world.

And then one night, Minerva, the poetess,

Came to me in her trouble, crying.

I tried to help her out—she died—

They indicted me, the newspapers disgraced me,

My wife perished of a broken heart.

And pneumonia finished me.

Mrs. Meyers

HE protested all his life long

The newspapers lied about him villainously;

That he was not at fault for Minerva's fall,

But only tried to help her.

Poor soul so sunk in sin he could not see

That even trying to help her, as he called it,

He had broken the law human and divine.