Verse > Edgar Lee Masters > Spoon River Anthology

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

205. Rutherford McDowell

THEY brought me ambrotypes 
Of the old pioneers to enlarge. 
And sometimes one sat for me— 
Some one who was in being 
When giant hands from the womb of the world         5
Tore the republic. 
What was it in their eyes?— 
For I could never fathom 
That mystical pathos of drooped eyelids, 
And the serene sorrow of their eyes.  10
It was like a pool of water, 
Amid oak trees at the edge of a forest, 
Where the leaves fall, 
As you hear the crow of a cock 
From a far-off farm house, seen near the hills  15
Where the third generation lives, and the strong men 
And the strong women are gone and forgotten. 
And these grand-children and great grand-children 
Of the pioneers! 
Truly did my camera record their faces, too,  20
With so much of the old strength gone, 
And the old faith gone, 
And the old mastery of life gone, 
And the old courage gone, 
Which labors and loves and suffers and sings  25
Under the sun! 


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