Verse > Edgar Lee Masters > Spoon River Anthology

Edgar Lee Masters (1868–1950).  Spoon River Anthology.  1916.

245. The Spooniad

[The late Mr. Jonathan Swift Somers, laureate of Spoon River, planned The Spooniad as an epic in twenty-four books, but unfortunately did not live to complete even the first book. The fragment was found among his papers by William Marion Reedy and was for the first time published in Reedy’s Mirror of December 18th, 1914.]

OF John Cabanis’ wrath and of the strife 
Of hostile parties, and his dire defeat 
Who led the common people in the cause 
Of freedom for Spoon River, and the fall 
Of Rhodes’ bank that brought unnumbered woes         5
And loss to many, with engendered hate 
That flamed into the torch in Anarch hands 
To burn the court-house, on whose blackened wreck 
A fairer temple rose and Progress stood— 
Sing, muse, that lit the Chian’s face with smiles  10
Who saw the ant-like Greeks and Trojans crawl 
About Scamander, over walls, pursued 
Or else pursuing, and the funeral pyres 
And sacred hecatombs, and first because 
Of Helen who with Paris fled to Troy  15
As soul-mate; and the wrath of Peleus’ son, 
Decreed, to lose Chryseis, lovely spoil 
Of war, and dearest concubine.
                              Say first,
Thou son of night, called Momus, from whose eyes 
No secret hides, and Thalia, smiling one,  20
What bred ’twixt Thomas Rhodes and John Cabanis 
The deadly strife? His daughter Flossie, she, 
Returning from her wandering with a troop 
Of strolling players, walked the village streets, 
Her bracelets tinkling and with sparkling rings  25
And words of serpent wisdom and a smile 
Of cunning in her eyes. Then Thomas Rhodes, 
Who ruled the church and ruled the bank as well, 
Made known his disapproval of the maid; 
And all Spoon River whispered and the eyes  30
Of all the church frowned on her, till she knew 
They feared her and condemned.
                              But them to flout
She gave a dance to viols and to flutes, 
Brought from Peoria, and many youths, 
But lately made regenerate through the prayers  35
Of zealous preachers and of earnest souls, 
Danced merrily, and sought her in the dance, 
Who wore a dress so low of neck that eyes 
Down straying might survey the snowy swale 
Till it was lost in whiteness.
                              With the dance
The village changed to merriment from gloom. 
The milliner, Mrs. Williams, could not fill 
Her orders for new hats, and every seamstress 
Plied busy needles making gowns; old trunks 
And chests were opened for their store of laces  45
And rings and trinkets were brought out of hiding 
And all the youths fastidious grew of dress; 
Notes passed, and many a fair one’s door at eve 
Knew a bouquet, and strolling lovers thronged 
About the hills that overlooked the river.  50
Then, since the mercy seats more empty showed, 
One of God’s chosen lifted up his voice: 
“The woman of Babylon is among us; rise 
Ye sons of light and drive the wanton forth!” 
So John Cabanis left the church and left  55
The hosts of law and order with his eyes 
By anger cleared, and him the liberal cause 
Acclaimed as nominee to the mayoralty 
To vanquish A. D. Blood.
                        But as the war
Waged bitterly for votes and rumors flew  60
About the bank, and of the heavy loans 
Which Rhodes’ son had made to prop his loss 
In wheat, and many drew their coin and left 
The bank of Rhodes more hollow, with the talk 
Among the liberals of another bank  65
Soon to be chartered, lo, the bubble burst 
’Mid cries and curses; but the liberals laughed 
And in the hall of Nicholas Bindle held 
Wise converse and inspiriting debate. 
High on a stage that overlooked the chairs  70
Where dozens sat, and where a pop-eyed daub 
Of Shakespeare, very like the hired man 
Of Christian Dallmann, brow and pointed beard, 
Upon a drab proscenium outward stared, 
Sat Harmon Whitney, to that eminence,  75
By merit raised in ribaldry and guile, 
And to the assembled rebels thus he spake: 
“Whether to lie supine and let a clique 
Cold-blooded, scheming, hungry, singing psalms, 
Devour our substance, wreck our banks and drain  80
Our little hoards for hazards on the price 
Of wheat or pork, or yet to cower beneath 
The shadow of a spire upreared to curb 
A breed of lackeys and to serve the bank 
Coadjutor in greed, that is the question.  85
Shall we have music and the jocund dance, 
Or tolling bells? Or shall young romance roam 
These hills about the river, flowering now 
To April’s tears, or shall they sit at home, 
Or play croquet where Thomas Rhodes may see,  90
I ask you? If the blood of youth runs o’er 
And riots ’gainst this regimen of gloom, 
Shall we submit to have these youths and maids 
Branded as libertines and wantons?”
His words were done a woman’s voice called “No!”  95
Then rose a sound of moving chairs, as when 
The numerous swine o’er-run the replenished troughs; 
And every head was turned, as when a flock 
Of geese back-turning to the hunter’s tread 
Rise up with flapping wings; then rang the hall 100
With riotous laughter, for with battered hat 
Tilted upon her saucy head, and fist 
Raised in defiance, Daisy Fraser stood. 
Headlong she had been hurled from out the hall 
Save Wendell Bloyd, who spoke for woman’s rights, 105
Prevented, and the bellowing voice of Burchard. 
Then ’mid applause she hastened toward the stage 
And flung both gold and silver to the cause 
And swiftly left the hall.
                          Meantime upstood
A giant figure, bearded like the son 110
Of Alcmene, deep-chested, round of paunch, 
And spoke in thunder: “Over there behold 
A man who for the truth withstood his wife— 
Such is our spirit—when that A. D. Blood 
Compelled me to remove Dom Pedro—”
Before Jim Brown could finish, Jefferson Howard 
Obtained the floor and spake: “Ill suits the time 
For clownish words, and trivial is our cause 
If naught’s at stake but John Cabanis’ wrath, 
He who was erstwhile of the other side 120
And came to us for vengeance. More’s at stake 
Than triumph for New England or Virginia. 
And whether rum be sold, or for two years 
As in the past two years, this town be dry 
Matters but little—Oh yes, revenue 125
For sidewalks, sewers; that is well enough! 
I wish to God this fight were now inspired 
By other passion than to salve the pride 
Of John Cabanis or his daughter. Why 
Can never contests of great moment spring 130
From worthy things, not little? Still, if men 
Must always act so, and if rum must be 
The symbol and the medium to release 
From life’s denial and from slavery, 
Then give me rum!”
                  Exultant cries arose.
Then, as George Trimble had o’ercome his fear 
And vacillation and begun to speak, 
The door creaked and the idiot, Willie Metcalf, 
Breathless and hatless, whiter than a sheet, 
Entered and cried: “The marshal’s on his way 140
To arrest you all. And if you only knew 
Who’s coming here to-morrow; I was listening 
Beneath the window where the other side 
Are making plans.”
                  So to a smaller room
To hear the idiot’s secret some withdrew 145
Selected by the Chair; the Chair himself 
And Jefferson Howard, Benjamin Pantier, 
And Wendell Bloyd, George Trimble, Adam Weirauch, 
Imanuel Ehrenhardt, Seth Compton, Godwin James 
And Enoch Dunlap, Hiram Scates, Roy Butler, 150
Carl Hamblin, Roger Heston, Ernest Hyde 
And Penniwit, the artist, Kinsey Keene, 
And E. C. Culbertson and Franklin Jones, 
Benjamin Fraser, son of Benjamin Pantier 
By Daisy Fraser, some of lesser note, 155
And secretly conferred.
                      But in the hall
Disorder reigned and when the marshal came 
And found it so, he marched the hoodlums out 
And locked them up.

                  Meanwhile within a room
Back in the basement of the church, with Blood 160
Counseled the wisest heads. Judge Somers first, 
Deep learned in life, and next him, Elliott Hawkins 
And Lambert Hutchins; next him Thomas Rhodes 
And Editor Whedon; next him Garrison Standard, 
A traitor to the liberals, who with lip 165
Upcurled in scorn and with a bitter sneer: 
“Such strife about an insult to a woman— 
A girl of eighteen”—Christian Dallman too, 
And others unrecorded. Some there were 
Who frowned not on the cup but loathed the rule 170
Democracy achieved thereby, the freedom 
And lust of life it symbolized. 
Now morn with snowy fingers up the sky 
Flung like an orange at a festival 
The ruddy sun, when from their hasty beds 175
Poured forth the hostile forces, and the streets 
Resounded to the rattle of the wheels, 
That drove this way and that to gather in 
The tardy voters, and the cries of chieftains 
Who manned the battle. But at ten o’clock 180
The liberals bellowed fraud, and at the polls 
The rival candidates growled and came to blows. 
Then proved the idiot’s tale of yester-eve 
A word of warning. Suddenly on the streets 
Walked hog-eyed Allen, terror of the hills 185
That looked on Bernadotte ten miles removed. 
No man of this degenerate day could lift 
The boulders which he threw, and when he spoke 
The windows rattled, and beneath his brows, 
Thatched like a shed with bristling hair of black, 190
His small eyes glistened like a maddened boar. 
And as he walked the boards creaked, as he walked 
A song of menace rumbled. Thus he came, 
The champion of A. D. Blood, commissioned 
To terrify the liberals. Many fled 195
As when a hawk soars o’er the chicken yard. 
He passed the polls and with a playful hand 
Touched Brown, the giant, and he fell against, 
As though he were a child, the wall; so strong 
Was hog-eyed Allen. But the liberals smiled. 200
For soon as hog-eyed Allen reached the walk, 
Close on his steps paced Bengal Mike, brought in 
By Kinsey Keene, the subtle-witted one, 
To match the hog-eyed Allen. He was scarce 
Three-fourths the other’s bulk, but steel his arms, 205
And with a tiger’s heart. Two men he killed 
And many wounded in the days before, 
And no one feared.
                  But when the hog-eyed one
Saw Bengal Mike his countenance grew dark, 
The bristles o’er his red eyes twitched with rage, 210
The song he rumbled lowered. Round and round 
The court-house paced he, followed stealthily 
By Bengal Mike, who jeered him every step: 
“Come, elephant, and fight! Come, hog-eyed coward! 
Come, face about and fight me, lumbering sneak! 215
Come, beefy bully, hit me, if you can! 
Take out your gun, you duffer, give me reason 
To draw and kill you. Take your billy out; 
I’ll crack your boar’s head with a piece of brick!” 
But never a word the hog-eyed one returned, 220
But trod about the court-house, followed both 
By troops of boys and watched by all the men. 
All day, they walked the square. But when Apollo 
Stood with reluctant look above the hills 
As fain to see the end, and all the votes 225
Were cast, and closed the polls, before the door 
Of Trainor’s drug store Bengal Mike, in tones 
That echoed through the village, bawled the taunt: 
“Who was your mother, hog-eyed?” In a trice, 
As when a wild boar turns upon the hound 230
That through the brakes upon an August day 
Has gashed him with its teeth, the hog-eyed one 
Rushed with his giant arms on Bengal Mike 
And grabbed him by the throat. Then rose to heaven 
The frightened cries of boys, and yells of men 235
Forth rushing to the street. And Bengal Mike 
Moved this way and now that, drew in his head 
As if his neck to shorten, and bent down 
To break the death grip of the hog-eyed one; 
’Twixt guttural wrath and fast-expiring strength 240
Striking his fists against the invulnerable chest 
Of hog-eyed Allen. Then, when some came in 
To part them, others stayed them, and the fight 
Spread among dozens; many valiant souls 
Went down from clubs and bricks.

                                But tell me, Muse,
What god or goddess rescued Bengal Mike? 
With one last, mighty struggle did he grasp 
The murderous hands and turning kick his foe. 
Then, as if struck by lightning, vanished all 
The strength from hog-eyed Allen, at his side 250
Sank limp those giant arms and o’er his face 
Dread pallor and the sweat of anguish spread. 
And those great knees, invincible but late, 
Shook to his weight. And quickly as the lion 
Leaps on its wounded prey, did Bengal Mike 255
Smite with a rock the temple of his foe, 
And down he sank and darkness o’er his eyes 
Passed like a cloud.

                    As when the woodman fells
Some giant oak upon a summer’s day 
And all the songsters of the forest shrill, 260
And one great hawk that has his nestling young 
Amid the topmost branches croaks, as crash 
The leafy branches through the tangled boughs 
Of brother oaks, so fell the hog-eyed one 
Amid the lamentations of the friends 265
Of A. D. Blood.
              Just then, four lusty men
Bore the town marshall, on whose iron face 
The purple pall of death already lay, 
To Trainor’s drug store, shot by Jack McGuire. 
And cries went up of “Lynch him!” and the sound 270
Of running feet from every side was heard 
Bent on the 



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