The Desplaines Forest

Edgar Lee Masters - 1868-1950

The sun has sunk below the level plain,
And yet above the forest’s leafy gloom
The glory of the evening lightens still.
Smooth as a mirror is the river’s face
With Heaven’s light, and all its radiant clouds
And shadows which against the river’s shore
Already are as night. From some retreat
Obscure and lonely, evening’s saddest bird
Whistles, and beyond the water comes
The musical reply, and silence reigns—
Save for the noisy chorus of the frogs,
And undistinguished sounds of faint portent
That night has come. There is a rustic bridge
Which spans the stream, from which we look below
At Heaven above, till revery reclaims
The mind from hurried thought and merges it
Into the universal mind which broods
O’er such a scene. Strange quietude o’erspreads
The restless flame of being, and the soul
Beholds its source and destiny and feels
Not sorrowful to sink into the breast
Of that large life whereof it is a part.
What are we? But the question is not solved
Here in the presence of intensest thought,
Where nature stills the clamor of the world,
And leaves us in communion with ourselves.
Hence to the strivings of the clear-eyed day
What take we that shall mitigate the pangs
That each soul is alone, and that all friends
Gentle and wise and good can never soothe
The ache of that sub-consciousness which is
Something unfathomed and unmedicined?
Yet this it is which keeps us in the path
Of some ambition cherished or pursued;
The still, small voice that is not quieted
By disregard, but ever speaks to us
It mandates while we wake or sleep, and asks
A closer harmony with that great scheme
Which is the music of the universe.

So as the cherubim of Heaven defend
The realms of the unknown with flaming swords,
Thence are we driven to the world which is
Ours to be known through Art, who beckons us
To excellence, and in her rarer moods
Casts shadowy glances of serener lands,
Where all the serious gods, removed from stress
And interruption, build, as we conceive,
In fellowship that knows not that reserve
Which clouds the heart of those who wish to live
As they, in that large realm of perfect mind.
 

More by Edgar Lee Masters

Lucinda Matlock

I went to the dances at Chandlerville,
And played snap-out at Winchester.
One time we changed partners,
Driving home in the moonlight of middle June,
And then I found Davis.
We were married and lived together for seventy years,
Enjoying, working, raising the twelve children,
Eight of whom we lost
Ere I had reached the age of sixty.
I spun, I wove, I kept the house, I nursed the sick,
I made the garden, and for holiday
Rambled over the fields where sang the larks,
And by Spoon River gathering many a shell,
And many a flower and medicinal weed--
Shouting to the wooded hills, singing to the green valleys.
At ninety-six I had lived enough, that is all,
And passed to a sweet repose.
What is this I hear of sorrow and weariness,
Anger, discontent and drooping hopes?
Degenerate sons and daughters,
Life is too strong for you--
It takes life to love Life.

Anne Rutledge

Out of me unworthy and unknown
The vibrations of deathless music;
"With malice toward none, with charity for all."
Out of me the forgiveness of millions toward millions,
And the beneficent face of a nation
Shining with justice and truth.
I am Anne Rutledge who sleep beneath these weeds,
Beloved in life of Abraham Lincoln,
Wedded to him, not through union,
But through separation.
Bloom forever, O Republic,
From the dust of my bosom!

Fiddler Jones

The earth keeps some vibration going
There in your heart, and that is you.
And if the people find you can fiddle,
Why, fiddle you must, for all your life.
What do you see, a harvest of clover?
Or a meadow to walk through to the river?
The wind's in the corn; you rub your hands
For beeves hereafter ready for market;
Or else you hear the rustle of skirts
Like the girls when dancing at Little Grove.
To Cooney Potter a pillar of dust
Or whirling leaves meant ruinous drouth;
They looked to me like Red-Head Sammy
Stepping it off, to "Toor-a-Loor."
How could I till my forty acres
Not to speak of getting more,
With a medley of horns, bassoons and piccolos
Stirred in my brain by crows and robins
And the creak of a wind-mill--only these?
And I never started to plow in my life
That some one did not stop in the road
And take me away to a dance or picnic.
I ended up with forty acres;
I ended up with a broken fiddle--
And a broken laugh, and a thousand memories,
And not a single regret.

Related Poems

Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow

as if it were a scene made-up by the mind, 
that is not mine, but is a made place,

that is mine, it is so near to the heart, 
an eternal pasture folded in all thought 
so that there is a hall therein

that is a made place, created by light 
wherefrom the shadows that are forms fall.

Wherefrom fall all architectures I am 
I say are likenesses of the First Beloved 
whose flowers are flames lit to the Lady.

She it is Queen Under The Hill
whose hosts are a disturbance of words within words 
that is a field folded.

It is only a dream of the grass blowing 
east against the source of the sun 
in an hour before the sun's going down

whose secret we see in a children's game 
of ring a round of roses told.

Often I am permitted to return to a meadow 
as if it were a given property of the mind 
that certain bounds hold against chaos,

that is a place of first permission,
everlasting omen of what is.