Edgar Lee Masters: Harmon Whitney (Spoon River Anthology)

OUT of the lights and roar of cities,

Drifting down like a spark in Spoon River,

Burnt out with the fire of drink, and broken,

The paramour of a woman I took in self-contempt,

But to hide a wounded pride as well.

To be judged and loathed by a village of little minds—

I, gifted with tongues and wisdom,

Sunk here to the dust of the justice court,

A picker of rags in the rubbage of spites and wrongs,—

I, whom fortune smiled on! I in a village,

Spouting to gaping yokels pages of verse,

Out of the lore of golden years,

Or raising a laugh with a flash of filthy wit

When they bought the drinks to kindle my dying mind.

To be judged by you,

The soul of me hidden from you,

With its wound gangrened

By love for a wife who made the wound,

With her cold white bosom, treasonous, pure and hard,

Relentless to the last, when the touch of her hand,

At any time, might have cured me of the typhus,

Caught in the jungle of life where many are lost.

And only to think that my soul could not react,

Like Byron’s did, in song, in something noble,

But turned on itself like a tortured snake—

Judge me this way, O world.



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