Edgar Lee Masters: Ernest Hyde and Roger Heston

ERNEST HYDE

MY mind was a mirror:

It saw what it saw, it knew what it knew.

In youth my mind was just a mirror

In a rapidly flying car,

Which catches and loses bits of the landscape.

Then in time

Great scratches were made on the mirror,

Letting the outside world come in,

And letting my inner self look out.

For this is the birth of the soul in sorrow,

A birth with gains and losses.

The mind sees the world as a thing apart,

And the soul makes the world at one with itself.

A mirror scratched reflects no image—

And this is the silence of wisdom.

 

ROGER HESTON

OH many times did Ernest Hyde and I

Argue about the freedom of the will.

My favorite metaphor was Prickett’s cow

Roped out to grass, and free you know as far

As the length of the rope.

One day while arguing so, watching the cow

Pull at the rope to get beyond the circle

Which she had eaten bare,

Out came the stake, and tossing up her head,

She ran for us.

“What’s that, free-will or what?” said Ernest, running.

I fell just as she gored me to my death.

*** 

Edgar Lee Masters: Hod Putt (Spoon River Anthology)

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 others 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.

***

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***

Edgar Lee Masters: The Hill (Spoon River Anthology)

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.

***

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