Home  »  Spoon River Anthology  »  5. Robert Fulton Tanner

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

5. Robert Fulton Tanner

IF a man could bite the giant hand

That catches and destroys him,

As I was bitten by a rat

While demonstrating my patent trap,

In my hardware store that day.

But a man can never avenge himself

On the monstrous ogre Life.

You enter the room—that’s being born;

And then you must live—work out your soul,

Aha! the bait that you crave is in view:

A woman with money you want to marry,

Prestige, place, or power in the world.

But there’s work to do and things to conquer—

Oh, yes! the wires that screen the bait.

At last you get in—but you hear a step:

The ogre, Life, comes into the room,

(He was waiting and heard the clang of the spring)

To watch you nibble the wondrous cheese,

And stare with his burning eyes at you,

And scowl and laugh, and mock and curse you,

Running up and down in the trap,

Until your misery bores him.