Edgar Lee Masters
Born on August 23, 1868 to Emma J. Dexter and Hardin Wallace Masters in Garnett, Kansas, his father had briefly moved to set up a law practice. The family soon moved back to his paternal grandparents' farm near Petersburg in Menard County, Illinois. In 1880 they moved to Lewistown, Illinois, where he attended high school and had his first publication in the Chicago Daily News. The culture around Lewistown, in addition to the town's cemetery at Oak Hill, and the nearby Spoon River were the inspirations for many of his works, most notably Spoon River Anthology, his most famous and acclaimed work. Spoon River was Masters's revenge on small-town hypocrisy and narrow-mindedness. It gained a huge ... more »
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Edgar Lee Masters Poems
I have known the silence of the stars and of the sea, And the silence of the city when it pauses, And the silence of a man and a maid, And the silence of the sick
I have studied many times The marble which was chiseled for me -- A boat with a furled sail at rest in a harbor. In truth it pictures not my destination
The earth keeps some vibration going There in your heart, and that is you. And if the people find you can fiddle, Why, fiddle you must, for all your life.
Why was I not devoured by self-contempt, And rotted down by indifference And impotent revolt like Indignation Jones? Why, with all of my errant steps
If you in the village think that my work was a good one, Who closed the saloons and stopped all playing at cards, And haled old Daisy Fraser before Justice Arnett, In many a crusade to purge the people of sin;
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.
I bought every kind of machine that's known -- Grinders, shellers, planters, mowers, Mills and rakes and ploughs and threshers -- And all of them stood in the rain and sun,
Out of me unworthy and unknown The vibrations of deathless music; 'With malice toward none, with charity for all.' Out of me the forgiveness of millions toward millions,
In youth my wings were strong and tireless, But I did not know the mountains. In age I knew the mountains But my weary wings could not follow my vision --
I went to the dances at Chandlerville, And played snap-out at Winchester. One time we changed partners, Driving home in the midnight of middle June,
When I first came to Spoon River I did not know whether what they told me Was true or false. They would bring me an epitaph
Over and over they used to ask me, While buying the wine or the beer, In Peoria first, and later in Chicago, Denver, Frisco, New York, wherever I lived,
Andy the Night-Watch
In my Spanish cloak, And old slouch hat, And overshoes of felt, And Tyke, my faithful dog,
Yes, here I lie close to a stunted rose bush In a forgotten place near the fence Where the thickets from Siever's woods Have crept over, growing sparsely.
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I have known the silence of the stars and of the sea,
And the silence of the city when it pauses,
And the silence of a man and a maid,
And the silence of the sick
When their eyes roam about the room.
And I ask: For the depths,
Of what use is language?
A beast of the field moans a few times
When death takes its young.
And we are voiceless in the presence of realities --
We cannot speak.
A curious boy asks an old soldier
Sitting in front of the grocery store,
"How did you lose your leg?"
And the old soldier is struck with silence, ...