Post by Doris McCraw/Angela Raines
I grew up not far from Galesburg, Illinois, the setting for Edgar Lee Masters classic. Why is that important? The small rural community I spent time in was much like the town that Edgar Lee Masters wrote about in his classic “Spoon River Anthology”. Masters told stories, without varnish or sweetening. Reading this work you know the heartache, secrets, joys and pains of these people. Much like my other favorites, I have more than one copy. I’ve shared some of these works before, but I feel revisiting, as the daylight fades into winter, is the thing to do. These works and other authors such as Tennyson, Bristow, Hunt, and others should not be allowed to molder away. So here for your enjoyment, some stories of the people who lived in Spoon River.
Knox County Illinois, where Galesburg is located U.S. Geological Survey (Data Owner), Alden, William Clinton (Photographer)
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
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
I was not beloved of the villagers,
But all because I spoke my mind,
And met those who transgressed against me
With plain remonstrance, hiding nor nurturing
Nor secret griefs nor grudges.
That act of the Spartan boy is greatly praised,
Who hid the wolf under his cloak,
Letting it devour him, uncomplainingly.
It is braver, I think, to snatch the wolf forth
And fight him openly, even in the street,
Amid dust and howls of pain.
The tongue may be an unruly member—
But silence poisons the soul.
Berate me who will—I am content
Mrs. George Reece
To this generation I would say:
Memorize some bit of verse of truth or beauty.
It may serve a turn in your life.
My husband had nothing to do
With the fall of the bank—he was only cashier.
The wreck was due to the president, Thomas Rhodes,
And his vain, unscrupulous son.
Yet my husband was sent to prison,
And I was left with the children,
To feed and clothe and school them.
And I did it, and sent them forth
Into the world all clean and strong,
And all through the wisdom of Pope, the poet:
“Act well your part, there all the honor lies.”
I would recommend, it you have not done so, pick up a copy of “Spoon River Anthology” and give it a try. To me this book, along with so many others, has influenced not only my reading, but my writing and the way I look at and live my life. As Lucinda Matlock says in the book :
What is this I hear of sorrow and weariness,Anger, discontent and drooping hopes? Degenerate sons and daughters, Life is too strong for you – It takes life to love Life.
You can find the book online at: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1280