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

93. Jefferson Howard

MY valiant fight! For I call it valiant,

With my father’s beliefs from old Virginia:

Hating slavery, but no less war.

I, full of spirit, audacity, courage

Thrown into life here in Spoon River,

With its dominant forces drawn from New England,

Republicans, Calvinists, merchants, bankers,

Hating me, yet fearing my arm.

With wife and children heavy to carry—

Yet fruits of my very zest of life.

Stealing odd pleasures that cost me prestige,

And reaping evils I had not sown;

Foe of the church with its charnel dankness,

Friend of the human touch of the tavern;

Tangled with fates all alien to me,

Deserted by hands I called my own.

Then just as I felt my giant strength

Short of breath, behold my children

Had wound their lives in stranger gardens—

And I stood alone, as I started alone!

My valiant life! I died on my feet,

Facing the silence—facing the prospect

That no one would know of the fight I made.