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

166. Richard Bone

WHEN I first came to Spoon River

I did not know whether what they told me

Was true or false.

They would bring me the epitaph

And stand around the shop while I worked

And say “He was so kind,” “He was wonderful,”

“She was the sweetest woman,” “He was a consistent Christian.”

And I chiseled for them whatever they wished,

All in ignorance of its truth.

But later, as I lived among the people here,

I knew how near to the life

Were the epitaphs that were ordered for them as they died.

But still I chiseled whatever they paid me to chisel

And made myself party to the false chronicles

Of the stones,

Even as the historian does who writes

Without knowing the truth,

Or because he is influenced to hide it.