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.