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

244. Webster Ford

DO you remember, O Delphic Apollo,

The sunset hour by the river, when Mickey M’Grew

Cried, “There’s a ghost,” and I, “It’s Delphic Apollo”;

And the son of the banker derided us, saying, “It’s light

By the flags at the water’s edge, you half-witted fools.”

And from thence, as the wearisome years rolled on, long after

Poor Mickey fell down in the water tower to his death,

Down, down, through bellowing darkness, I carried

The vision which perished with him like a rocket which falls

And quenches its light in earth, and hid it for fear

Of the son of the banker, calling on Plutus to save me?

Avenged were you for the shame of a fearful heart,

Who left me alone till I saw you again in an hour

When I seemed to be turned to a tree with trunk and branches

Growing indurate, turning to stone, yet burgeoning

In laurel leaves, in hosts of lambent laurel,

Quivering, fluttering, shrinking, fighting the numbness

Creeping into their veins from the dying trunk and branches!

’Tis vain, O youth, to fly the call of Apollo.

Fling yourselves in the fire, die with a song of spring,

If die you must in the spring. For none shall look

On the face of Apollo and live, and choose you must

’Twixt death in the flame and death after years of sorrow,

Rooted fast in the earth, feeling the grisly hand,

Not so much in the trunk as in the terrible numbness

Creeping up to the laurel leaves that never cease

To flourish until you fall. O leaves of me

Too sere for coronal wreaths, and fit alone

For urns of memory, treasured, perhaps, as themes

For hearts heroic, fearless singers and livers—

Delphic Apollo!