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

108. Robert Davidson

I GREW spiritually fat living off the souls of men.

If I saw a soul that was strong

I wounded its pride and devoured its strength.

The shelters of friendship knew my cunning,

For where I could steal a friend I did so.

And wherever I could enlarge my power

By undermining ambition, I did so,

Thus to make smooth my own.

And to triumph over other souls,

Just to assert and prove my superior strength,

Was with me a delight,

The keen exhilaration of soul gymnastics.

Devouring souls, I should have lived forever.

But their undigested remains bred in me a deadly nephritis,

With fear, restlessness, sinking spirits,

Hatred, suspicion, vision disturbed.

I collapsed at last with a shriek.

Remember the acorn;

It does not devour other acorns.