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Best Famous Edgar Lee Masters Poems

Here is a collection of the all-time best famous Edgar Lee Masters poems. This is a select list of the best famous Edgar Lee Masters poetry. Reading, writing, and enjoying famous Edgar Lee Masters poetry (as well as classical and contemporary poems) is a great past time. These top poems are the best examples of Edgar Lee Masters poems.

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by Edgar Lee Masters | |

Doc Hill

I went up and down the streets
Here and there by day and night,
Through all hours of the night caring for the poor who were sick.
Do you know why? My wife hated me, my son went to the dogs.
And I turned to the people and poured out my love to them.
Sweet it was to see the crowds about the lawns on the day of my funeral, And hear them murmur their love and sorrow.
But oh, dear God, my soul trembled, scarcely able To hold to the railing of the new life When I saw Em Stanton behind the oak tree At the grave, Hiding herself, and her grief!

by Edgar Lee Masters | |

Seth Compton

When I died, the circulating library
Which I built up for Spoon River,
And managed for the good of inquiring minds,
Was sold at auction on the public square,
As if to destroy the last vestige
Of my memory and influence.
For those of you who could not see the virtue Of knowing Volney's "Ruins" as well as Butler's "Analogy" And "Faust" as well as "Evangeline," Were really the power in the village, And often you asked me, "What is the use of knowing the evil in the world?" I am out of your way now, Spoon River, Choose your own good and call it good.
For I could never make you see That no one knows what is good Who knows not what is evil; And no one knows what is true Who knows not what is false.

by Edgar Lee Masters | |

Mrs. Purkapile

 He ran away and was gone for a year.
When he came home he told me the silly story Of being kidnapped by pirates on Lake Michigan And kept in chains so he could not write me.
I pretended to believe it, though I knew very well What he was doing, and that he met The milliner, Mrs.
Williams, now and then When she went to the city to buy goods, as she said.
But a promise is a promise And marriage is marriage, And out of respect for my own character I refused to be drawn into a divorce By the scheme of a husband who had merely grown tired Of his marital vow and duty.

More great poems below...

by Edgar Lee Masters | |

Francis Turner

 I could not run or play
In boyhood.
In manhood I could only sip the cup, Not drink -- For scarlet-fever left my heart diseased.
Yet I lie here Soothed by a secret none but Mary knows: There is a garden of acacia, Catalpa trees, and arbors sweet with vines -- There on that afternoon in June By Mary's side -- Kissing her with my soul upon my lips It suddenly took flight.

by Edgar Lee Masters | |

Andy the Night-Watch

 In my Spanish cloak,
And old slouch hat,
And overshoes of felt,
And Tyke, my faithful dog,
And my knotted hickory cane,
I slipped about with a bull's-eye lantern
From door to door on the square,
As the midnight stars wheeled round,
And the bell in the steeple murmured
From the blowing of the wind;
And the weary steps of old Doc Hill
Sounded like one who walks in sleep,
And a far-off rooster crew.
And now another is watching Spoon River As others watched before me.
And here we lie, Doc Hill and I Where none breaks through and steals, And no eye needs to guard.

by Edgar Lee Masters | |

Judson Stoddard

 On a mountain top above the clouds
That streamed like a sea below me
I said that peak is the thought of Budda,
And that one is the prayer of Jesus,
And this one is the dream of Plato,
And that one there the song of Dante,
And this is Kant and this is Newton,
And this is Milton and this is Shakespeare,
And this the hope of the Mother Church,
And this -- why all these peaks are poems,
Poems and prayers that pierce the clouds.
And I said "What does God do with mountains That rise almost to heaven?"

by Edgar Lee Masters | |

George Gray

 I have studied many times
The marble which was chiseled for me --
A boat with a furled sail at rest in a harbor.
In truth it pictures not my destination But my life.
For love was offered me and I shrank from its disillusionment; Sorrow knocked at my door, but I was afraid; Ambition called to me, but I dreaded the chances.
Yet all the while I hungered for meaning in my life.
And now I know that we must lift the sail And catch the winds of destiny Wherever they drive the boat.
To put meaning in one's life may end in madness, But life without meaning is the torture Of restlessness and vague desire -- It is a boat longing for the sea and yet afraid.

by Edgar Lee Masters | |

Fiddler Jones

 The earth keeps some vibration going
There in your heart, and that is you.
And if the people find you can fiddle, Why, fiddle you must and for all your life.
What do you see, a harvest ofclover? Or a meadow to awlk through to the river? The wind's in the corn; you rub your hands for beeves hereafter ready for market; Or else you hear the rustle of skirts Like the girls when dancing at Little Grove.
To Cooney Potter a pillar of dust Or whirling leaves meant ruinous drouth; They looked to me like Red-Head Sammy Stepping it off, to "Toor-a-Loor.
" How could I till my forty acres Not to speak of getting more, With a medley of horns, bassoons and piccolos Stirred in my brain by crows androbins And the creak of a wind-mill—only these? And I never started to plow in my life That some one did not stop in the road And tkae me away to a dance or picnic.
I ended up with forty acres; I ended up with a broken fiddle— And a broken laugh, and a thousand memories.
And not a single regret.

by Edgar Lee Masters | |

Rain In My Heart

 There is a quiet in my heart
Like on who rests from days of pain.
Outside, the sparrows on the roof Are chirping in the dripping rain.
Rain in my heart; rain on the roof; And memory sleeps beneath the gray And the windless sky and brings no dreams Of any well remembered day.
I would not have the heavens fair, Nor golden clouds, nor breezes mild, But days like this, until my heart To loss of you is reconciled.
I would not see you.
Every hope To know you as you were has ranged.
I, who am altered, would not find The face I loved so greatly changed.

by Edgar Lee Masters | |

Willard Fluke

 My wife lost her health,
And dwindled until she weighed scarce ninety pounds.
Then that woman, whom the men Styled Cleopatra, came along.
And we -- we married ones All broke our vows, myself among the rest.
Years passed and one by one Death claimed them all in some hideous form, And I was borne along by dreams Of God's particular grace for me, And I began to write, write, write, reams on reams Of the second coming of Christ.
Then Christ came to me and said, "Go into the church and stand before the congregation And confess your sin.
" But just as I stood up and began to speak I saw my little girl, who was sitting in the front seat -- My little girl who was born blind! After that, all is blackness.

by Edgar Lee Masters | |

Jeremy Carlisle

 Passer-by, sin beyond any sin
Is the sin of blindness of souls to other souls.
And joy beyond any joy is the joy Of having the good in you seen, and seeing the good At the miraculous moment! Here I confess to a lofty scorn, And an acrid skepticism.
But do you remember the liquid that Penniwit Poured on tintypes making them blue With a mist like hickory smoke? Then how the picture began to clear Till the face came forth like life? So you appeared to me, neglected ones, And enemies too, as I went along With my face growing clearer to you as yours Grew clearer to me.
We were ready then to walk together And sing in chorus and chant the dawn Of life that is wholly life.

by Edgar Lee Masters | |

Lyman King

 You may think, passer-by, that Fate
Is a pit-fall outside of yourself,
Around which you may walk by the use of foresight
And wisdom.
Thus you believe, viewing the lives of other men, As one who in God-like fashion bends over an anthill, Seeing how their difficulties could be avoided.
But pass on into life: In time you shall see Fate approach you In the shape of your own image in the mirror; Or you shall sit alone by your own hearth, And suddenly the chair by you shall hold a guest, And you shall know that guest, And read the authentic message of his eyes.

by Edgar Lee Masters | |

Lucinda Matlock

 I went to the dances at Chandlerville,
And played snap-out at Winchester.
One time we changed partners, Driving home in the midnight of middle June, And then I found Davis.
We were married and lived together for seventy years, Enjoying, working, raising the twelve children, Eight of whom we lost Ere I had reached the age of sixty.
I spun, I wove, I kept the house, I nursed the sick, I made the garden, and for holiday Rambled over the fields where sang the larks, And by Spoon River gathering many a shell, And many a flower and medicinal weed-- Shouting to the wooded hills, singing to the green valleys.
At ninety-six I had lived enough, that is all, And passed to a sweet repose.
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.

by Edgar Lee Masters | |

Griffy the Cooper

 The cooper should know about tubs.
But I learned about life as well, And you who loiter around these graves Think you know life.
You think your eye sweeps about a wide horizon, perhaps, In truth you are only looking around the interior of your tub.
You cannot lift yourself to its rim And see the outer world of things, And at the same time see yourself.
You are submerged in the tub of yourself — Taboos and rules and appearances, Are the staves of your tub.
Break them and dispel the witchcraft Of thinking your tub is life! And that you know life!

by Edgar Lee Masters | |

Robert Fulton Tanner

 If a man could bite the giant hand
That catchs and destroys him,
As I was bitten by a rat
While demonstrating my patent trap,
In my hardware store that day.
But a man can never avenge himself On the monstrous ogre Life.
You enter the room—that's being born; And then you must live—work out your soul, Aha! the bait that you crave is in view: A woman with money you want to marry, Presitge, place, or power in the world.
But there's work to do and things to conquer— Oh, yes! the wires that screen the bait.
At last you get in—but you hear a step: The ogre, Life, comes into the room, (He was waiting and heard the clang of the spring) To watch you nibble the wondrous cheese, And stare with his burning eyes at you, And scowl and laugh, and mock and curse you, Running up and down in the trap, Until your misery bores him.

by Edgar Lee Masters | |

Marie Bateson

 You observe the carven hand
With the index finger pointing heavenward.
That is the direction, no doubt.
But how shall one follow it? It is well to abstain from murder and lust, To forgive, do good to others, worship God Without graven images.
But these are external means after all By which you chiefly do good to yourself.
The inner kernel is freedom, It is light, purity -- I can no more, Find the goal or lose it, according to your vision.

by Edgar Lee Masters | |

Wendell P. Bloyd

 They first charged me with disorderly conduct,
There being no statute on blasphemy.
Later they locked me up as insane Where I was beaten to death by a Catholic guard.
My offense was this: I said God lied to Adam, and destined him to lead the life of a fool, Ignorant that there is evil in the world as well as good.
And when Adam outwitted God by eating the apple And saw through the lie, God drove him out of Eden to keep him from taking The fruit of immortal life.
For Christ's sake, you sensible people, Here's what God Himself says about it in the book of Genesis: "And the Lord God said, behold the man Is become as one of us" (a little envy, you see), "To know good and evil" (The all-is-good lie exposed): "And now lest he put forth his hand and take Also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever: Therefore the Lord God sent Him forth from the Garden of Eden.
" (The reason I believe God crucified His Own Son To get out of the wretched tangle is, because it sounds just like Him).

by Edgar Lee Masters | |

Herbert Marshall

 All your sorrow, Louise, and hatred of me
Sprang from your delusion that it was wantonness
Of spirit and contempt of your soul's rights
Which made me turn to Annabelle and forsake you.
You really grew to hate me for love of me, Because I was your soul's happiness, Formed and tempered To solve your life for you, and would not.
But you were my misery.
If you had been My happiness would I not have clung to you? This is life's sorrow: That one can be happy only where two are; And that our hearts are drawn to stars Which want us not.

by Edgar Lee Masters | |

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.

by Edgar Lee Masters | |

Benjamin Fraser

 Their spirits beat upon mine
Like the wings of a thousand butterflies.
I closed my eyes and felt their spirits vibrating.
I closed my eyes, yet I knew when their lashes Fringed their cheeks from downcast eyes, And when they turned their heads; And when their garments clung to them, Or fell from them, in exquisite draperies.
Their spirits watched my ecstasy With wide looks of starry unconcern.
Their spirits looked upon my torture; They drank it as it were the water of life; With reddened cheeks, brightened eyes, The rising flame of my soul made their spirits gilt, Like the wings of a butterfly drifting suddenly into sunlight.
And they cried to me for life, life, life.
But in taking life for myself, In seizing and crushing their souls, As a child crushes grapes and drinks From its palms the purple juice, I came to this wingless void, Where neither red, nor gold, nor wine, Nor the rhythm of life are known.

by Edgar Lee Masters | |

Petit The Poet

 Seeds in a dry pod, tick, tick, tick,
Tick, tick, tick, like mites in a quarrel--
Faint iambics that the full breeze wakens--
But the pine tree makes a symphony thereof.
Triolets, villanelles, rondels, rondeaus, Ballades by the score with the same old thought: The snows and the roses of yesterday are vanished; And what is love but a rose that fades? Life all around me here in the village: Tragedy, comedy, valor and truth, Courage, constancy, heroism, failure-- All in the loom, and oh what patterns! Woodlands, meadows, streams and rivers-- Blind to all of it all my life long.
Triolets, villanelles, rondels, rondeaus, Seeds in a dry pod, tick, tick, tick, Tick, tick, tick, what little iambics, While Homer and Whitman roared in the pines?

by Edgar Lee Masters | |

Richard Bone

 When I first came to Spoon River
I did not know whether what they told me
Was true or false.
They would bring me an epitaph And stand around the shop while I worked And say "He was so kind," "He was wonderful," "She was the sweetest woman," "He was a consistent Christian.
" And I chiseled for them whatever they wished, All in ignorance of its truth.
But later, as I lived among the people here, I knew how near to the life Were the epitaphs that were ordered for them when they died.
But still I chiseled whatever they paid me to chisel And made myself party to the false chronicles Of the stones, Even as the historian does who writes Without knowing the truth, Or because he is influenced to hide it.

by Edgar Lee Masters | |

Rita Matlock Gruenberg

 Grandmother! You who sang to green valleys,
And passed to a sweet repose at ninety-six,
Here is your little Rita at last
Grown old, grown forty-nine;
Here stretched on your grave under the winter stars,
With the rustle of oak leaves over my head;
Piecing together strength for the act,
Last thoughts, memories, asking how I am here!
After wandering afar, over the world,
Life in cities, marriages, motehrhood--
(They all married, and I am homeless, alone.
) Grandmother! I have not lacked in strength, Nor will, nor courage.
No! I have honored you With a life that used these gifts of your blood.
But I was caught in trap after trap in the years.
At last the cruelist trap of all.
Then I fought the bars, pried open the door, Crawled through -- but it suddenly sprang shut, And tore me to death as I used your courage To free myself! Grandmother! Fold me to your breast again.
Make me earth with you for the blossoms of spring-- Grandmother!

by Edgar Lee Masters | |

Many Soldiers

 The idea danced before us as a flag;
The sound of martial music;
The thrill of carrying a gun;
Advancement in the world on coming home;
A glint of glory, wrath for foes;
A dream of duty to country or to God.
But these were things in ourselves, shining before us, They were not the power behind us, Which was the Almighty hand of Life, Like fire at earth's center making mountains, Or pent up waters that cut them through.
Do you remember the iron band The blacksmith, Shack Dye, welded Around the oak on Bennet's lawn, From which to swing a hammock, That daughter Janet might repose in, reading On summer afternoons? And that the growing tree at last Sundered the iron band? But not a cell in all the tree Knew aught save that it thrilled with life, Nor cared because the hammock fell In the dust with Milton's poems.

by Edgar Lee Masters | |

John Ballard

 In the lust of my strength
I cursed God, but he paid no attention to me:
I might as well have cursed the stars.
In my last sickness I was in agony, but I was resolute And I cursed God for my suffering; Still He paid no attention to me; He left me alone, as He had always done.
I might as well have cursed the Presbyterian steeple.
Then, as I grew weaker, a terror came over me: Perhaps I had alienated God by cursing him.
One day Lydia Humphrey brought me a bouquet And it occurred to me to try to make friends with God, So I tried to make friends with Him; But I might as well have tried to make friends with the bouquet.
Now I was very close to the secret, For I really could make friends with the bouquet By holding close to me the love in me for the bouquet And so I was creeping upon the secret, but --