Thursday, April 20, 2006

America First

Over at Civil Warriors Mark Grimsley reproduces a poem by Edgar Lee Masters from the Spoon River Anthology (1914-15), which describes thusly: "In Masters’s collection of post-mortem autobiographical “epitaphs,” 244 former citizens of the fictional Spoon River, Illinois tell us the truth about their lives—with the honesty no fear of consequences enables."

This particular poem is called "Knowlt Hoheimer":

I WAS the first fruits of the battle of Missionary Ridge.
When I felt the bullet enter my heart
I wished I had staid at home and gone to jail
For stealing the hogs of Curl Trenary,
Instead of running away and joining the army.
Rather a thousand times the country jail
Than to lie under this marble figure with wings,
And this granite pedestal
Bearing the words, "Pro Patria."
What do they mean, anyway?
The poems within the Spoon River Anthology appeared two or three years before Wilfred Owen wrote his famous poem "Dulce Et Decorum Est" in 1917.

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