A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
Suppose it is nothing but the hive:
That there are drones and workers
And queens, and nothing but storing honey —
(Material things as well as culture and wisdom) —
For the next generation, this generation never living,
Except as it swarms in the sun-light of youth,
Strengthening its wings on what has been gathered,
And tasting, on the way to the hive
From the clover field, the delicate spoil.
Suppose all this, and suppose the truth:
That the nature of man is greater
Than nature’s need in the hive;
And you must bear the burden of life,
As well as the urge from your spirit’s excess —
Well, I say to live it out like a god
Sure of immortal life, though you are in doubt,
Is the way to live it.
If that doesn’t make God proud of you,
Then God is nothing but gravitation,
Or sleep is the golden goal.
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.