Jefferson Howard - Edgar Lee Masters (from Spoon River Anthology)
MY valiant fight! For I call it valiant,
With my father’s beliefs from old Virginia:
Hating slavery, but no less war.
I, full of spirit, audacity, courage
Thrown into life here in Spoon River,
With its dominant forces drawn from New England,
Republicans, Calvinists, merchants, bankers,
Hating me, yet fearing my arm.
With wife and children heavy to carry—
Yet fruits of my very zest of life.
Stealing odd pleasures that cost me prestige,
And reaping evils I had not sown;
Foe of the church with its charnel dankness,
Friend of the human touch of the tavern;
Tangled with fates all alien to me,
Deserted by hands I called my own.
Then just as I felt my giant strength
Short of breath, behold my children
Had wound their lives in stranger gardens—
And I stood alone, as I started alone!
My valiant life! I died on my feet,
Facing the silence—facing the prospect
That no one would know of the fight I made.
Spoon River Anthology, Edgar Lee Masters, 1916, is a collection of poems written as epitaphs for a fictional village. While the village is fictional, there is a Spoon River in Illinois, and Edgar Lee Masters spent his youth nearby the river in Lewistown, IL, about 40 miles SW of Peoria.