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

157. Oaks Tutt

MY mother was for woman’s rights

And my father was the rich miller at London Mills.

I dreamed of the wrongs of the world and wanted to right them.

When my father died, I set out to see peoples and countries

In order to learn how to reform the world.

I traveled through many lands.

I saw the ruins of Rome,

And the ruins of Athens,

And the ruins of Thebes.

And I sat by moonlight amid the necropolis of Memphis.

There I was caught up by wings of flame,

And a voice from heaven said to me:

“Injustice, Untruth destroyed them. Go forth!

Preach Justice! Preach Truth!”

And I hastened back to Spoon River

To say farewell to my mother before beginning my work.

They all saw a strange light in my eye.

And by and by, when I talked, they discovered

What had come in my mind.

Then Jonathan Swift Somers challenged me to debate

The subject, (I taking the negative):

“Pontius Pilate, the Greatest Philosopher of the World.”

And he won the debate by saying at last,

“Before you reform the world, Mr. Tutt,

Please answer the question of Pontius Pilate:

‘What is Truth?’”