Spoon River Anthology
Spoon River Anthology

Spoon River Anthology

by Edgar Lee Masters


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In 1915, Edgar Lee Masters published a book of dramatic monologues written in free verse about a fictional town called Spoon River. Based on the midwestern towns where Edgar Lee Masters grew up, the shocking scandals and secret tragedies of Spoon River were immediately recognized by readers as authentic. Masters raises the dead "sleeping on the hill" in the village cemetery to tell the truth about their lives, and their testimony topples the American myth of the moral superiority of small-town life. Spoon River is as undeniably corrupt and truel as the big city, and is home to murderers, drunkards, crooked bankers, lechers, bitter wives and abusive husbands, failed dreamers, and a few good souls. The freshness of this landmark work has not diminished, and Spoon River Anthology remains an American classic.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781420961331
Publisher: Neeland Media
Publication date: 04/01/2019
Pages: 148
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.34(d)

About the Author

Edgar Lee Masters was born in 1868 in Garnett, Kansas. He achieved fame in 1915 with the publication of Spoon River Anthology. Though he never matched the success of Spoon River Anthology, Masters was a prolific writer of diverse works. He published several volumes of poems including The Great Valley (1916), Along the Illinois (1942), The Serpent in the Wilderness (1933), and Invisible Landscapes (1935). In the 1940s he was awarded the Poetry Society of America medal, the Shelley Memorial Award, and the Academy of American Poets Fellowship. Edgar Lee Masters died in Melrose, Pennsylvania, in 1950 and is buried in Petersburg, Illinois.

Read an Excerpt

Spoon River Anthology

By Edgar Lee Masters

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 1996 Tom Doherty Associates, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-0572-9


    The Hill

    Where are Elmer, Herman, Bert, Tom and Charley,
    The weak of will, the strong of arm, the clown, the
    boozer, the fighter?
    All, all, are sleeping on the hill.

    One passed in a fever,
    One was burned in a mine,
    One was killed in a brawl,
    One died in a jail,
    One fell from a bridge toiling for children and wife —
    All, all are sleeping, sleeping, sleeping on the hill.

    Where are Ella, Kate, Mag, Lizzie and Edith,
    The tender heart, the simple soul, the loud, the proud,
    the happy one? —
    All, all, are sleeping on the hill.

    One died in shameful child-birth,
    One of a thwarted love,
    One at the hands of a brute in a brothel,
    One of a broken pride, in the search for heart's desire,
    One after life in far-away London and Paris
    Was brought to her little space by Ella and Kate and
    Mag —
    All, all are sleeping, sleeping, sleeping on the hill.
    Where are Uncle Isaac and Aunt Emily,
    And old Towny Kincaid and Sevigne Houghton,
    And Major Walker who had talked
    With venerable men of the revolution? —
    All, all, are sleeping on the hill.

    They brought them dead sons from the war,
    And daughters whom life had crushed,
    And their children fatherless, crying —
    All, all are sleeping, sleeping, sleeping on the hill.

    Where is Old Fiddle: Jones
    Who played with life all his ninety years,
    Braving the sleet with bared breast,
    Drinking, rioting, thinking neither of wife nor kin,
    Nor gold, nor love, nor heaven?
    Lo! he babbles of the fish-frys of long ago,
    Of the horse-races of long ago at Clary's Grove,
    Of what Abe Lincoln said
    One time at Springfield.

    Hod Putt

    Here I lie close to the grave
    Of Old Bill Piersol,
    Who grew rich trading with the Indians, and who
    Afterwards took the bankrupt law
    And emerged from it richer than ever.
    Myself grown tired of toil and poverty
    And beholding how Old Bill and others grew in
    Robbed a traveler one night near Proctor's Grove,
    Killing him unwittingly while doing so,
    For the which I was tried and hanged.
    That was my way of going into bankruptcy.
    Now we who took the bankrupt law in our respective
    Sleep peacefully side by side.

    Ollie McGee

    Have you seen walking through the village
    A man with downcast eyes and haggard face?
    That is my husband who, by secret cruelty
    Never to be told, robbed me of my youth and my
    Till at last, wrinkled and with yellow teeth,
    And with broken pride and shameful humility,
    I sank into the grave.
    But what think you gnaws at my husband's heart?
    The face of what I was, the face of what he made
    These are driving him to the place where I lie.
    In death, therefore, I am avenged.

    Fletcher McGee

    She took my strength by minutes,
    She took my life by hours,
    She drained me like a fevered moon
    That saps the spinning world.
    The days went by like shadows,
    The minutes wheeled like stars.
    She took the pity from my heart,
    And made it into smiles.
    She was a hunk of sculptor's clay,
    My secret thoughts were fingers:
    They flew behind her pensive brow
    And lined it deep with pain.
    They set the lips, and sagged the cheeks,
    And drooped the eyes with sorrow.
    My soul had entered in the clay,
    Fighting like seven devils.
    It was not mine, it was not hers;
    She held it, but its struggles
    Modeled a face she hated,
    And a face I feared to see.
    I beat the windows, shook the bolts.
    I hid me in a corner —
    And then she died and haunted me,
    And hunted me for life.

    Robert Fulton Tanner

    If a man could bite the giant hand
    That catches 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,
    Prestige, 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.

    Cassius Hueffer

    They have chiseled on my stone the words:
    "His life was gentle, and the elements so mixed in
    That nature might stand up and say to all the world,
    This was a man."
    Those who knew me smile
    As they read this empty rhetoric.

    My epitaph should have been:
    "Life was not gentle to him,
    And the elements so mixed in him
    That he made warfare on life,
    In the which he was slain."
    While I lived I could not cope with slanderous
    Now that I am dead I must submit to an epitaph
    Graven by a fool!

    Serepta Mason

    My life's blossom might have bloomed on all sides
    Save for a bitter wind which stunted my petals
    On the side of me which you in the village could
    From the dust I lift a voice of protest:
    My flowering side you never saw!
    Ye living ones, ye are fools indeed
    Who do not know the ways of the wind
    And the unseen forces
    That govern the processes of life.

    Amanda Barker

    Henry got me with child,
    Knowing that I could not bring forth life
    Without losing my own.
    In my youth therefore I entered the portals of dust.
    Traveler, it is believed in the village where I lived
    That Henry loved me with a husband's love,
    But I proclaim from the dust
    That he slew me to gratify his hatred.

    Constance Hately

    You praise my self-sacrifice, Spoon River,
    In rearing Irene and Mary,
    Orphans of my older sister!
    And you censure Irene and Mary
    For their contempt for me!
    But praise not my self-sacrifice,
    And censure not their contempt;
    I reared them, I cared for them, true enough! —
    But I poisoned my benefactions
    With constant reminders of their dependence.

    Chase Henry

    In life I was the town drunkard;
    When I died the priest denied me burial
    In holy ground.
    The which redounded to my good fortune.
    For the Protestants bought this lot,
    And buried my body here,
    Close to the grave of the banker Nicholas,
    And of his wife Priscilla.
    Take note, ye prudent and pious souls,
    Of the cross-currents in life
    Which bring honor to the dead, who lived in shame.

    Harry Carey Goodhue

    You never marveled, dullards of Spoon River,
    When Chase Henry voted against the saloons
    To revenge himself for being shut off.
    But none of you was keen enough
    To follow my steps, or trace me home
    As Chase's spiritual brother.
    Do you remember when I fought
    The bank and the courthouse ring,
    For pocketing the interest on public funds?
    And when I fought our leading citizens
    For making the poor the pack-horses of the taxes?
    And when I fought the water works
    For stealing streets and raising rates?
    And when I fought the business men
    Who fought me in these fights?
    Then do you remember:
    That staggering up from the wreck of defeat,
    And the wreck of a ruined career,
    I slipped from my cloak my last ideal,
    Hidden from all eyes until then,
    Like the cherished jawbone of an ass,
    And smote the bank and the water works,
    And the business men with prohibition,
    And made Spoon River pay the cost
    Of the fights that I had lost.

    Judge Somers

    How does it happen, tell me,
    That I who was most erudite of lawyers,
    Who knew Blackstone and Coke
    Almost by heart, who made the greatest speech
    The court-house ever heard, and wrote
    A brief that won the praise of Justice Breese —
    How does it happen, tell me,
    That I lie here unmarked, forgotten,
    While Chase Henry, the town drunkard,
    Has a marble block, topped by an urn,
    Wherein Nature, in a mood ironical,
    Has sown a flowering weed?

    Kinsey Keene

    Your attention, Thomas Rhodes, president of the
    Coolbaugh Whedon, editor of the Argus;
    Rev. Peet, pastor of the leading church;
    A. D. Blood, several times Mayor of Spoon River;
    And finally all of you, members of the Social Purity
    Club —
    Your attention to Cambronne's dying words,
    Standing with the heroic remnant
    Of Napoleon's guard on Mount Saint Jean
    At the battle field of Waterloo,
    When Maitland, the Englishman, called to them:
    "Surrender, brave Frenchmen!" —
    There at close of day with the battle hopelessly lost,
    And hordes of men no longer the army
    Of the great Napoleon
    Streamed from the field like ragged strips
    Of thunder clouds in the storm.
    Well, what Cambronne said to Maitland
    Ere the English fire made smooth the brow of the
    Against the sinking light of day
    Say I to you, and all of you,
    And to you, 0 world.
    And I charge you to carve it
    Upon my stone.

    Benjamin Pantier

    Together in this grave lie Benjamin Pantier, attorney
    at law,
    And Nig, his dog, constant companion, solace and
    Down the gray road, friends, children, men and
    Passing one by one out of life, left me till I was
    With Nig for partner, bed-fellow, comrade in drink.
    In the morning of life I knew aspiration and saw
    Then she, who survives me, snared my soul
    With a snare which bled me to death,
    Till I, once strong of will, lay broken, indifferent,
    Living with Nig in a room back of a dingy office.
    Under my jaw-bone is snuggled the bony nose of
    Our story is lost in silence. Go by, mad world!

    Mrs. Benjamin Pantier

    I know that he told that I snared his soul
    With a snare which bled him to death.
    And all the men loved him,
    And most of the women pitied him.
    But suppose you are really a lady, and have delicate
    And loathe the smell of whiskey and onions.
    And the rhythm of Wordsworth's "Ode" runs in your
    While he goes about from morning till night
    Repeating bits of that common thing;
    "Oh, why should the spirit of mortal be proud?"
    And then, suppose:
    You are a woman well endowed,
    And the only man with whom the law and morality
    Permit you to have the marital relation
    Is the very man that fills you with disgust
    Every time you think of it — while you think of it
    Every time you see him?
    That's why I drove him away from home
    To live with his dog in a dingy room
    Back of his office.

    Reuben Pantier

    Well, Emily Sparks, your prayers were not wasted,
    Your love was not all in vain.
    I owe whatever I was in life
    To your hope that would not give me up,
    To your love that saw me still as good.
    Dear Emily Sparks, let me tell you the story.
    I pass the effect of my father and mother;
    The milliner's daughter made me trouble
    And out I went in the world,
    Where I passed through every peril known
    Of wine and women and joy of life.
    One night, in a room in the Rue de Rivoli,
    I was drinking wine with a black-eyed cocotte,
    And the tears swam into my eyes.
    She thought they were amorous tears and smiled
    For thought of her conquest over me.
    But my soul was three thousand miles away,
    In the days when you taught me in Spoon River.
    And just because you no more could love me,
    Nor pray for me, nor write me letters,
    The eternal silence of you spoke instead.
    And the black-eyed cocotte took the tears for hers,
    As well as the deceiving kisses I gave her.
    Somehow, from that hour, I had a new vision —
    Dear Emily Sparks!

    Emily Sparks

    Where is my boy, my boy —
    In what far part of the world?
    The boy I loved best of all in the school? —
    I, the teacher, the old maid, the virgin heart,
    Who made them all my children.
    Did I know my boy aright,
    Thinking of him as spirit aflame,
    Active, ever aspiring?
    Oh, boy, boy, for whom I prayed and prayed
    In many a watchful hour at night,
    Do you remember the letter I wrote you
    Of the beautiful love of Christ?
    And whether you ever took it or not,
    My boy, wherever you are,
    Work for your soul's sake,
    That all the clay of you, all of the dross of you,
    May yield to the fire of you,
    Till the fire is nothing but light! ...
    Nothing but light!

    Trainor, the Druggist

    Only the chemist can tell, and not always the
    What will result from compounding
    Fluids or solids.
    And who can tell
    How men and women will interact
    On each other, or what children will result?
    There were Benjamin Pantier and his wife,
    Good in themselves, but evil toward each other:
    He oxygen, she hydrogen,
    Their son, a devastating fire.
    I Trainor, the druggist, a mixer of chemicals,
    Killed while making an experiment,
    Lived unwedded.

    Daisy Fraser

    Did you ever hear of Editor Whedon
    Giving to the public treasury any of the money he
    For supporting candidates for office?
    Or for writing up the canning factory
    To get people to invest?
    Or for suppressing the facts about the bank,
    When it was rotten and ready to break?
    Did you ever hear of the Circuit Judge
    Helping anyone except the "Q" railroad,
    Or the bankers? Or did Rev. Peet or Rev. Sibley
    Give any part of their salary, earned by keeping still,
    Or speaking out as the leaders wished them to do,
    To the building of the water works?
    But I — Daisy Fraser who always passed
    Along the streets through rows of nods and smiles,
    And coughs and words such as "there she goes,"
    Never was taken before Justice Arnett
    Without contributing ten dollars and costs
    To the school fund of Spoon River!


Excerpted from Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters. Copyright © 1996 Tom Doherty Associates, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Altman, Herman218
Armstrong, Hannah215
Arnett, Harold47
Arnett, Justice53
Atheist, The Village236
Atherton, Lucius56
Ballard, John237
Barker, Amanda9
Barrett, Pauline88
Bartlett, Ezra117
Bateson, Marie222
Beatty, Tom148
Beethoven, Isaiah252
Bennett, Hon. Henry66
Bindle, Nicholas45
Bliss, Mrs. Charles89
Blood, A. D.69
Bloyd, Wendell P.80
Bone, Richard170
Branson, Caroline205
Brown, Jim108
Brown, Sarah34
Browning, Elijah253
Burke, Robert Southey70
Burleson, John Horace76
Butler, Roy149
Cabanis, Flossie36
Cabanis, John121
Calhoun, Granville178
Calhoun, Henry C.179
Campbell, Calvin193
Carlisle, Jeremy247
Carman, Eugene128
Cheney, Columbus220
Chicken, Ida106
Childers, Elizabeth188
Church, John M.83
Churchill, Alfonso239
Clapp, Homer57
Clark, Nellie62
Clute, Aner55
Compton, Seth167
Conant, Edith189
Culbertson, E. C.174
Davidson, Robert109
Dement, Silas171
Dippold the Optician182
Dixon, Joseph248
Dobyns, Batterton145
Drummer, Frank29
Drummer, Hare30
Dunlap, Enoch165
Dye, Shack175
Ehrenhardt, Imanuel226
Fallas, State's Attorney79
Fawcett, Clarence129
Ferguson, Wallace221
Findlay, Anthony120
Fluke, Willard54
Foote, Searcy150
Ford, Webster255
Fraser, Benjamin21
Fraser, Daisy20
French, Charlie39
Frickey, Ida166
Garber, James241
Gardner, Samuel227
Garrick, Amelia118
Godbey, Jacob146
Goldman, Le Roy243
Goode, William230
Goodhue Harry Carey12
Goodpasture, Jacob46
Graham, Magrady183
Gray, George65
Green, Ami192
Greene, Hamilton111
Griffy the Cooper67
Gustine, Dorcas44
Hainsfeather, Barney86
Hamblin, Carl126
Hately, Constance10
Hatfield, Aaron251
Hawkins, Elliott161
Hawley, Jeduthan158
Henry, Chase11
Herndon, William H.211
Heston, Roger113
Higbie, Archibald184
Hill, Doc32
Hill, The1
Hoheimer, Knowlt27
Holden, Barry78
Hookey, Sam59
Houghton, Jonathan173
Howard, Jefferson94
Hueffer, Cassius7
Hummel, Oscar135
Humphrey, Lydia242
Huxley, Scholfield233
Hutchins, Lambert142
Hyde, Ernest112
Iseman, Dr. Siegfried50
Jack, Blind75
James, Godwin203
Joe, Plymouth Rock224
Johnson, Voltaire163
Jones, Fiddler61
Jones, Franklin82
Jones, "Indignation"23
Jones, Minerva22
Jones, William229
Judge, The Circuit74
Karr, Elmer187
Keene, Jonas97
Keene, Kinsey14
Kessler, Bert141
Kessler, Mrs.139
Killion, Captain Orlando246
Kincaid, Russell250
King, Lyman204
Knapp, Nancy77
Konovaloff, Ippolit196
Kritt, Dow228
Layton, Henry194
Lively, Judge Selah95
M'Cumber, Daniel103
McDowell, Rutherford214
McFarlane, Widow125
McGee, Fletcher5
McGee, Ollie4
M'Grew, Jennie219
M'Grew, Mickey133
McGuire, Jack43
McNeely, Mary102
McNeely, Paul101
McNeely, Washington100
Malloy, Father191
Marsh, Zilpha240
Marshal, The Town42
Marshall, Herbert64
Mason, Serepta8
Matheny, Faith232
Matlock, Davis217
Matlock, Lucinda216
Melveny, Abel159
Merritt, Mrs.186
Merritt, Tom185
Metcalf, Willie234
Meyers, Doctor24
Meyers, Mrs.25
Micure, Hamlet208
Miles, J. Milton231
Miller, Julia37
Miner, Georgine Sand104
Moir, Alfred180
Newcomer, Professor131
Night-Watch, Andy the33
Nutter, Isa85
Osborne, mabel210
Otis, John Hancock119
Pantier, Benjamin15
Pantier, Mrs. Benjamin16
Pantier, Reuben17
Peet, Rev. Abner93
Penniwit, The Artist107
Petit, The Poet87
Phipps, Henry197
Poague, Peleg157
Pollard, Edmund152
Potter, Cooney60
Puckett, Lydia28
Purkapile, Mrs.137
Purkapile, Roscoe136
Putt, Hod3
Reece, Mrs. George90
Rhodes, Ralph132
Rhodes, Thomas105
Richter, Gustav244
Robbins, Hortense144
Roberts, Rosie134
Ross, Thomas, Jr.92
Russian Sonia84
Rutledge, Anne207
Sayre, Johnnie38
Scates, Hiram156
Schirding, Albert96
Schmidt, Felix168
Schrceder the Fisherman169
Scott, Julian238
Sexsmith the Dentist68
Sewall, Harlan195
Sharp, Percival154
Shaw, "Ace"51
Shelley, Percy Bysshe35
Shope, Tennessee Claflin223
Sibley, Amos114
Sibley, Mrs.115
Siever, Conrad31
Simmons, Walter147
Sissman, Dillard172
Slack, Margaret Fuller48
Smith, Louise63
Soldiers, Many202
Somers, Jonathan Swift124
Somers, Judge13
Sparks, Emily18
Spears, Lois52
Spooniad, The257
Standard, W. Lloyd Garrison130
Stewart, Lillian143
Stoddard, Judson249
Tanner, Robert Fulton6
Taylor, Deacon58
Theodore the Poet41
Thornton, English164
Throckmorton, Alexander123
Todd, Eugenia98
Tompkins, Josiah138
Trainor, the Druggist19
Trevelyan, Thomas153
Trimble, George49
Tripp, Henry177
Tubbs, Hildrup176
Turner, Francis81
Tutt, Oaks160
Unknown, The122
Wasson, John201
Wasson, Rebecca213
Webster, Charles190
Weirauch, Adam116
Weldy, "Butch"26
Wertman, Elsa110
Whedon, Editor127
Whitney, Harmon140
Wiley, Rev. Lemuel91
Will, Arlo245
William and Emily73
Williams, Dora71
Williams, Mrs.72
Wilmans, Harry199
Witt, Zenas40
Yee Bow99
Zoll, Perry181
For Further Reading285

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Spoon River Anthology (Barnes & Noble Library of Essential Reading) 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This ¿edition¿ of Spoon River is a rip-off and a disappointment. I have had a copy of Spoon River on my bookshelf for over forty years, and recently wished to give a nicer copy of this important work to a friend. So I ordered this hardcover edition, at $27.95. At first glance I was disappointed. For a hardcover, it was of low quality, cheap paper, and a cheap and very plain font. Then I discovered that it is marked ¿Copyright 1986 by Buccaneer Book, Inc.¿. There is no reference to the original publication date of 1915, no introduction, and the Epilogue, contained in all paperback editions that I have seen, was missing entirely. Worst of all, THIRTY (30) of the original ¿voices¿ have simply been deleted. This edition by Buccaneer Books is an unacceptable insult to a great work of American literature, and I am surprised that Barnes & Noble have allowed such low quality merchandise to be in their inventory. I will be returning this ¿book¿ immediately. Brian Young
tracyjayhawk on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Masters weaves a great story between the main characters of these short poems. The over-arching theme, of course, if the irony of "the good life" and "death as the great equalizer," but some of the poems are especially powerful. The inspiration for "Winesburg, Ohio" by Sherwood Anderson, many say.
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manircu33 More than 1 year ago
super good :)
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Im Reading and Doing Projects and activities on this book in english class and athough im not a big reAder this is a really great book!
Trodar More than 1 year ago
Along with WINESBURG, OHIO, SPA needs to be re-visited in the sense that it is time to reevaluate the American dream by looking back into small town life as it was presented at the turn of the 20th century. It's not a pretty picture anymore. SPA takes you into familiar problems of today. Somewhere the American Dream seems to be more of a nightmare.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had not read Spoon River Anthology since I was in high school but its poems have stayed with me all these years. When I found the hardcover I knew this was a book I had to own. After all these years it is as relevant and brilliant as I remembered.
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This is a great book to discuss in my English Class. The kids love it.
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This can be a difficult read but well worth it. I have owned it since I was in high school and repeatedly go back to it like an old friend.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This clever book of poems is really handy for monologues. Some casting directors think that you're quite clever to use something that isn't the typical monologue. The poems are filled with emotion and character, and truly are good pieces.