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The Spooniad

Written by: Edgar Lee Masters | Biography
 | Quotes (6) |
 [The late Mr.
Jonathan Swift Somers, laureate of Spoon River, planned The Spooniad as an epic in twenty-four books, but unfortunately did not live to complete even the first book.
The fragment was found among his papers by William Marion Reedy and was for the first time published in Reedy's Mirror of December 18th, 1914.
] Of John Cabanis' wrath and of the strife Of hostile parties, and his dire defeat Who led the common people in the cause Of freedom for Spoon River, and the fall Of Rhodes' bank that brought unnumbered woes And loss to many, with engendered hate That flamed into the torch in Anarch hands To burn the court-house, on whose blackened wreck A fairer temple rose and Progress stood -- Sing, muse, that lit the Chian's face with smiles, Who saw the ant-like Greeks and Trojans crawl About Scamander, over walls, pursued Or else pursuing, and the funeral pyres And sacred hecatombs, and first because Of Helen who with Paris fled to Troy As soul-mate; and the wrath of Peleus' son, Decreed to lose Chryseis, lovely spoil Of war, and dearest concubine.
Say first, Thou son of night, called Momus, from whose eyes No secret hides, and Thalia, smiling one, What bred 'twixt Thomas Rhodes and John Cabanis The deadly strife? His daughter Flossie, she, Returning from her wandering with a troop Of strolling players, walked the village streets, Her bracelets tinkling and with sparkling rings And words of serpent wisdom and a smile Of cunning in her eyes.
Then Thomas Rhodes, Who ruled the church and ruled the bank as well, Made known his disapproval of the maid; And all Spoon River whispered and the eyes Of all the church frowned on her, till she knew They feared her and condemned.
But them to flout She gave a dance to viols and to flutes, Brought from Peoria, and many youths, But lately made regenerate through the prayers Of zealous preachers and of earnest souls, Danced merrily, and sought her in the dance, Who wore a dress so low of neck that eyes Down straying might survey the snowy swale Till it was lost in whiteness.
With the dance The village changed to merriment from gloom.
The milliner, Mrs.
Williams, could not fill Her orders for new hats, and every seamstress Plied busy needles making gowns; old trunks And chests were opened for their store of laces And rings and trinkets were brought out of hiding And all the youths fastidious grew of dress; Notes passed, and many a fair one's door at eve Knew a bouquet, and strolling lovers thronged About the hills that overlooked the river.
Then, since the mercy seats more empty showed, One of God's chosen lifted up his voice: "The woman of Babylon is among us; rise, Ye sons of light, and drive the wanton forth!" So John Cabanis left the church and left The hosts of law and order with his eyes By anger cleared, and him the liberal cause Acclaimed as nominee to the mayoralty To vanquish A.
D.
Blood.
But as the war Waged bitterly for votes and rumors flew About the bank, and of the heavy loans Which Rhodes' son had made to prop his loss In wheat, and many drew their coin and left The bank of Rhodes more hollow, with the talk Among the liberals of another bank Soon to be chartered, lo, the bubble burst 'Mid cries and curses; but the liberals laughed And in the hall of Nicholas Bindle held Wise converse and inspiriting debate.
High on a stage that overlooked the chairs Where dozens sat, and where a pop-eyed daub Of Shakespeare, very like the hired man Of Christian Dallmann, brow and pointed beard, Upon a drab proscenium outward stared, Sat Harmon Whitney, to that eminence, By merit raised in ribaldry and guile, And to the assembled rebels thus he spake: "Whether to lie supine and let a clique Cold-blooded, scheming, hungry, singing psalms, Devour our substance, wreck our banks and drain Our little hoards for hazards on the price Of wheat or pork, or yet to cower beneath The shadow of a spire upreared to curb A breed of lackeys and to serve the bank Coadjutor in greed, that is the question.
Shall we have music and the jocund dance, Or tolling bells? Or shall young romance roam These hills about the river, flowering now To April's tears, or shall they sit at home, Or play croquet where Thomas Rhodes may see, I ask you? If the blood of youth runs o'er And riots 'gainst this regimen of gloom, Shall we submit to have these youths and maids Branded as libertines and wantons?" Ere His words were done a woman's voice called "No!" Then rose a sound of moving chairs, as when The numerous swine o'er-run the replenished troughs; And every head was turned, as when a flock Of geese back-turning to the hunter's tread Rise up with flapping wings; then rang the hall With riotous laughter, for with battered hat Tilted upon her saucy head, and fist Raised in defiance, Daisy Fraser stood.
Headlong she had been hurled from out the hall Save Wendell Bloyd, who spoke for woman's rights, Prevented, and the bellowing voice of Burchard.
Then 'mid applause she hastened toward the stage And flung both gold and silver to the cause And swiftly left the hall.
Meantime upstood A giant figure, bearded like the son Of Alcmene, deep-chested, round of paunch, And spoke in thunder: "Over there behold A man who for the truth withstood his wife -- Such is our spirit -- when that A.
D.
Blood Compelled me to remove Dom Pedro --" Quick Before Jim Brown could finish, Jefferson Howard Obtained the floor and spake: "Ill suits the time For clownish words, and trivial is our cause If naught's at stake but John Cabanis' wrath, He who was erstwhile of the other side And came to us for vengeance.
More's at stake Than triumph for New England or Virginia.
And whether rum be sold, or for two years As in the past two years, this town be dry Matters but little -- Oh yes, revenue For sidewalks, sewers; that is well enough! I wish to God this fight were now inspired By other passion than to salve the pride Of John Cabanis or his daughter.
Why Can never contests of great moment spring From worthy things, not little? Still, if men Must always act so, and if rum must be The symbol and the medium to release From life's denial and from slavery, Then give me rum!" Exultant cries arose.
Then, as George Trimble had o'ercome his fear And vacillation and begun to speak, The door creaked and the idiot, Willie Metcalf, Breathless and hatless, whiter than a sheet, Entered and cried: "The marshal's on his way To arrest you all.
And if you only knew Who's coming here to-morrow; I was listening Beneath the window where the other side Are making plans.
" So to a smaller room To hear the idiot's secret some withdrew Selected by the Chair; the Chair himself And Jefferson Howard, Benjamin Pantier, And Wendell Bloyd, George Trimble, Adam Weirauch, Imanuel Ehrenhardt, Seth Compton, Godwin James And Enoch Dunlap, Hiram Scates, Roy Butler, Carl Hamblin, Roger Heston, Ernest Hyde And Penniwit, the artist, Kinsey Keene, And E.
C.
Culbertson and Franklin Jones, Benjamin Fraser, son of Benjamin Pantier By Daisy Fraser, some of lesser note, And secretly conferred.
But in the hall Disorder reigned and when the marshal came And found it so, he marched the hoodlums out And locked them up.
Meanwhile within a room Back in the basement of the church, with Blood Counseled the wisest heads.
Judge Somers first, Deep learned in life, and next him, Elliott Hawkins And Lambert Hutchins; next him Thomas Rhodes And Editor Whedon; next him Garrison Standard, A traitor to the liberals, who with lip Upcurled in scorn and with a bitter sneer: "Such strife about an insult to a woman -- A girl of eighteen" -- Christian Dallman too, And others unrecorded.
Some there were Who frowned not on the cup but loathed the rule Democracy achieved thereby, the freedom And lust of life it symbolized.
Now morn with snowy fingers up the sky Flung like an orange at a festival The ruddy sun, when from their hasty beds Poured forth the hostile forces, and the streets Resounded to the rattle of the wheels That drove this way and that to gather in The tardy voters, and the cries of chieftains Who manned the battle.
But at ten o'clock The liberals bellowed fraud, and at the polls The rival candidates growled and came to blows.
Then proved the idiot's tale of yester-eve A word of warning.
Suddenly on the streets Walked hog-eyed Allen, terror of the hills That looked on Bernadotte ten miles removed.
No man of this degenerate day could lift The boulders which he threw, and when he spoke The windows rattled, and beneath his brows, Thatched like a shed with bristling hair of black, His small eyes glistened like a maddened boar.
And as he walked the boards creaked, as he walked A song of menace rumbled.
Thus he came, The champion of A.
D.
Blood, commissioned To terrify the liberals.
Many fled As when a hawk soars o'er the chicken yard.
He passed the polls and with a playful hand Touched Brown, the giant, and he fell against, As though he were a child, the wall; so strong Was hog-eyed Allen.
But the liberals smiled.
For soon as hog-eyed Allen reached the walk, Close on his steps paced Bengal Mike, brought in By Kinsey Keene, the subtle-witted one, To match the hog-eyed Allen.
He was scarce Three-fourths the other's bulk, but steel his arms, And with a tiger's heart.
Two men he killed And many wounded in the days before, And no one feared.
But when the hog-eyed one Saw Bengal Mike his countenance grew dark, The bristles o'er his red eyes twitched with rage, The song he rumbled lowered.
Round and round The court-house paced he, followed stealthily By Bengal Mike, who jeered him every step: "Come, elephant, and fight! Come, hog-eyed coward! Come, face about and fight me, lumbering sneak! Come, beefy bully, hit me, if you can! Take out your gun, you duffer, give me reason To draw and kill you.
Take your billy out; I'll crack your boar's head with a piece of brick!" But never a word the hog-eyed one returned But trod about the court-house, followed both By troops of boys and watched by all the men.
All day, they walked the square.
But when Apollo Stood with reluctant look above the hills As fain to see the end, and all the votes Were cast, and closed the polls, before the door Of Trainor's drug store Bengal Mike, in tones That echoed through the village, bawled the taunt: "Who was your mother, hog-eyed?" In a trice, As when a wild boar turns upon the hound That through the brakes upon an August day Has gashed him with its teeth, the hog-eyed one Rushed with his giant arms on Bengal Mike And grabbed him by the throat.
Then rose to heaven The frightened cries of boys, and yells of men Forth rushing to the street.
And Bengal Mike Moved this way and now that, drew in his head As if his neck to shorten, and bent down To break the death grip of the hog-eyed one; 'Twixt guttural wrath and fast-expiring strength Striking his fists against the invulnerable chest Of hog-eyed Allen.
Then, when some came in To part them, others stayed them, and the fight Spread among dozens; many valiant souls Went down from clubs and bricks.
But tell me, Muse, What god or goddess rescued Bengal Mike? With one last, mighty struggle did he grasp The murderous hands and turning kick his foe.
Then, as if struck by lightning, vanished all The strength from hog-eyed Allen, at his side Sank limp those giant arms and o'er his face Dread pallor and the sweat of anguish spread.
And those great knees, invincible but late, Shook to his weight.
And quickly as the lion Leaps on its wounded prey, did Bengal Mike Smite with a rock the temple of his foe, And down he sank and darkness o'er his eyes Passed like a cloud.
As when the woodman fells Some giant oak upon a summer's day And all the songsters of the forest shrill, And one great hawk that has his nestling young Amid the topmost branches croaks, as crash The leafy branches through the tangled boughs Of brother oaks, so fell the hog-eyed one Amid the lamentations of the friends Of A.
D.
Blood.
Just then, four lusty men Bore the town marshal, on whose iron face The purple pall of death already lay, To Trainor's drug store, shot by Jack McGuire.
And cries went up of "Lynch him!" and the sound Of running feet from every side was heard Bent on the



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