Rutherford McDowell

By Edgar Lee Masters 1868–1950
They brought me ambrotypes
Of the old pioneers to enlarge.
And sometimes one sat for me i
Some one who was in being
When giant hands from the womb of the world
Tore the republic.
What was it in their eyes? i
For I could never fathom
That mystical pathos of drooped eyelids,
And the serene sorrow of their eyes.
It was like a pool of water,
Amid oak trees at the edge of a forest,
Where the leaves fall,
As you hear the crow of a cock
From a far-off farm house, seen near the hills
Where the third generation lives, and the strong men
And the strong women are gone and forgotten.
And these grand-children and great grand-children
Of the pioneers!
Truly did my camera record their faces, too,
With so much of the old strength gone,
And the old faith gone,
And the old mastery of life gone,
And the old courage gone,
Which labors and loves and suffers and sings
Under the sun!

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Poet Edgar Lee Masters 1868–1950

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

Subjects Arts & Sciences, Social Commentaries, Photography & Film

Poetic Terms Dramatic Monologue, Persona

 Edgar Lee Masters

Biography

Edgar Lee Masters is best remembered for his great collection Spoon River Anthology, a sequence of over two hundred free-verse epitaphs spoken from the cemetery of the town of Spoon River. When the collection first saw publication in 1915, it caused a great sensation because of its forthrightness about sex, moral decay, and hypocrisy; but its cynical view of Midwestern small town values influenced a whole generation of writers . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Arts & Sciences, Social Commentaries, Photography & Film

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

Poetic Terms Dramatic Monologue, Persona

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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