Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Edgar Lee Masters: The Circuit Judge

Take note, passers-by, of the sharp erosions 
Eaten in my head-stone by the wind and rain 
Almost as if an intangible Nemesis or hatred 
Were marking scores against me, 
But to destroy, and not preserve, my memory. 
I in life was the Circuit Judge, a maker of notches, 
Deciding cases on the points the lawyers scored, 
Not on the right of the matter. 
O wind and rain, leave my head-stone alone! 
For worse than the anger of the wronged, 
The curses of the poor, 
Was to lie speechless, yet with vision clear, 
Seeing that even Hod Putt, the murderer, 
Hanged by my sentence, 
Was innocent in soul compared with me. 


Public Domain. From Spoon River Anthology.

Edgar Lee Masters (1868-1950), an attorney and author, is remembered for his masterpiece Spoon River Anthology (1915), a collection of poems modeled on the Greek Anthology. In Masters’ poems, the residents of the midwestern town of Spoon River speak from beyond the grave, often revealing lives of dishonesty and hypocrisy. Its unsentimental view of small town America influenced an entire generation of American writers, including Theodore Dreiser and Vachel Lindsay.

2 comments on “Edgar Lee Masters: The Circuit Judge

  1. johnlawsonpoet
    October 16, 2020

    Especially timely as a judicial servant of wealthy interests is being rushed onto the Supreme Court.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vox Populi
      October 16, 2020

      Thanks for pointing this out, John. I was wondering whether people would see the connection between the Supreme Court nomination and the poem.

      Liked by 1 person

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