Archibald Higbie

By Edgar Lee Masters 1868–1950
I loathed you, Spoon River. I tried to rise above you,
I was ashamed of you. I despised you
As the place of my nativity.
And there in Rome, among the artists,
Speaking Italian, speaking French,
I seemed to myself at times to be free
Of every trace of my origin.
I seemed to be reaching the heights of art
And to breathe the air that the masters breathed,
And to see the world with their eyes.
But still they’d pass my work and say:
"What are you driving at, my friend?
Sometimes the face looks like Apollo’s,
At others it has a trace of Lincoln’s."
There was no culture, you know, in Spoon River,
And I burned with shame and held my peace.
And what could I do, all covered over
And weighted down with western soil,
Except aspire, and pray for another
Birth in the world, with all of Spoon River
Rooted out of my soul?

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Poet Edgar Lee Masters 1868–1950

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

 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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POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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