Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Spoon River Anthology (11)

Edgar Lee Masters. New York: Collier Books. A Division of Macmillan Publishers Co. 1915.

Why read it? Epitaphs in poetic form. Concise. Cryptic. Subtle. Often bitter. From the grave, the characters summarize their lives. Each poem is a potential short story.

“Amelia Garrick.” The speaker has wielded some kind of influence over her more successful friend—an influence that will always gnaw at the feeling of satisfaction which the other feels at her success. p. 140.

“John Hancock Otis.” The aristocrat without power denounces the pauper who rises to power. p. 141.

“Anthony Findlay.” Belief that greatness resides in the power to control others. “When the people clamor for freedom/ They really seek for power o’er the strong.” “ ‘Tis better to be feared than loved.” p. 142.

“John Cabonis.” Freedom—a force which endures despite setbacks—in the effort to make every citizen equal in wisdom and capable of self-rule. [The liberal’s credo. RayS. ] p. 143.

“The Unknown.” Like the shot and caged hawk, “The Unknown” was wounded and caged in life. p. 144.

“Alexander Throckmorton.” “Genius is wisdom and youth.” p. 145.

“Jonathan Swift Somers.” The hour of supreme vision. [He is the author of The Spooniad, and I assume that these epitaphs are at “the hour of supreme vision” about the characters’ lives. RayS.] p. 146.

“Widow McFarlane.” Life is a loom at which you weave your own shroud. p. 147.

“Carl Hamblin.” On the day the Anarchists were hanged in Chicago, he wrote a description of Justice as “disgustingly blind” and was tarred and feathered. p. 148.

“Editor Whedon.” The editor’s life and his last resting place are similar in that garbage and sewage are dumped and abortions hidden on his grave. His credo was “To be able to see every side of every question….” But he used “base designs for cunning ends.” p. 149.

Note: At this point, I will stop my summaries. You get the idea. If you are as fascinated by these epitaphs as I am, buy the book. RayS.

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