Edgar Lee Masters: Henry Phipps (Speen River Anthology)

I WAS the Sunday-school superintendent,
The dummy president of the wagon works
And the canning factory,
Acting for Thomas Rhodes and the banking clique;
My son the cashier of the bank,
Wedded to Rhodes’ daughter,
My week days spent in making money,
My Sundays at church and in prayer.
In everything a cog in the wheel of things-as-they-are:
Of money, master and man, made white
With the paint of the Christian creed.
And then:
The bank collapsed.
I stood and hooked at the wrecked machine—
The wheels with blow-holes stopped with putty and painted;
The rotten bolts, the broken rods;
And only the hopper for souls fit to be used again
In a new devourer of life,
When newspapers, judges and money-magicians
Build over again.
I was stripped to the bone, but I lay in the Rock of Ages,
Seeing now through the game, no longer a dupe,
And knowing “the upright shall dwell in the land
But the years of the wicked shall be shortened.”
Then suddenly, Dr. Meyers discovered
A cancer in my liver.
I was not, after all, the particular care of God
Why, even thus standing on a peak
Above the mists through which I had climbed,
And ready for larger life in the world,
Eternal forces
Moved me on with a push.

***

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