28 August 2014

Is Man Different From Fish or Hogs? (a Spoon River Epitaph)

A sweet co-worker recently introduced me to Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology, a collection of free-form poems written as epitaphs for deceased residents of a small town. S graciously lent me a copy of the book, and I have since found an online edition. Though these epitaphs are fictional, I hope you'll permit me to share some of my favorites with you here.

Schroeder the Fisherman (pg 124)
I SAT ON the bank above Bernadotte
And dropped crumbs in the water,
Just to see the minnows bump each other,
Until the strongest got the prize.
Or I went to my little pasture,
Where the peaceful swine were asleep in the wallow,
Or nosing each other lovingly,
And emptied a basket of yellow corn,
And watched them push and squeal and bite,
And trample each other to get the corn.
And I saw how Christian Dallman's farm,
Of more than three thousand acres,
Swallowed the patch of Felix Schmidt,
As a bass will swallow a minnow.
And I say if there's anything in man --
Spirit, or conscience, or breath of God
That makes him different from fishes or hogs,
I'd like to see it work!

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