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

159. Voltaire Johnson

WHY did you bruise me with your rough places

If you did not want me to tell you about them?

And stifle me with your stupidities,

If you did not want me to expose them?

And nail me with the nails of cruelty,

If you did not want me to pluck the nails forth

And fling them in your faces?

And starve me because I refused to obey you,

If you did not want me to undermine your tyranny?

I might have been as soul serene

As William Wordsworth except for you!

But what a coward you are, Spoon River,

When you drove me to stand in a magic circle

By the sword of Truth described!

And then to whine and curse your burns,

And curse my power who stood and laughed

Amid ironical lightning!