Outside the first chilling temps of fall and a lulling rain marked the moment I finished Edgar Lee Masters’ “Spoon River Anthology.” The same pervasive and palatable atmosphere hung over “The Hill” as I stepped away from the graves there.
From that Spoon River, Illinois, cemetery Masters’ 244 townsfolk had spoken their epitaphs, and I left the souls there to rest in peace.
In them, I had seen myself and so many others.
This singular work won Masters highest praise in the poetry genre. More than poetry, this series of simple tales, spoken by the dead and woven together, capture from another era small-town life and morals, or the lack thereof.
In the book’s finale, “The Spooniad,“ Masters cleverly allows his fictional character Jonathan Swift Somers, to leave behind “a fragment” of what was intended to be a 24-volume epic showing that the entangled lives of simple folk can reach Homeric heights.
One of the themes from beyond the veil of death was the greed and deception which led to the collapse of the town’s bank.
In “The Spooniad,” the fictional Somers writes:
“ … and the fall Of Rhodes, bank that brought unnumbered woes and loss to many, with engendered hate
that flamed into the torch in Anarch hands to burn the courthouse, on whose blackened wreck a fairer temple rose and Progress stood.”
Greed, deception, bank collapse. Unnumbered woes and loss.
The tales are timeless. That’s what makes a classic a classic.
Happy Birthday, Frodo, hobbit, lover of words, Keeper of the Ring!