Masters, Edgar Lee (1869-1950)

Edgar Lee Masters was born in Garnett, Kansas on Aug 23, 1868 while his parents were homesteading. He was the son of Hardin W. Masters and Emma Dexter and spent his early childhood near Petersburg, Illinois . He became a lawyer and lived primarily in Chicago, Illinois. After his death in 1950, he was buried in Oakland Cemetery, Petersburg, Menard Co., Illinois

If you in the village think that my work was a good one,
Who closed the saloons and stopped all playing at cards,
And haled old Daisy Fraser before Justice Arnett,
In many a crusade to purge the people of sin;
Why do you let the milliner's daughter Dora
And the worthless son of Benjamin Pantier
Nightly make my grave their unholy pillow?
Edgar Lee Masters, Spoon River Anthology

    John Cowper was probably the first to claim for Masters recognition of his genius. Dreiser had lent him the unpublished galley-sheets of Spoon River, for a lecture in Guthrie's Church on modern poetry, and Powys immediately saw how original and great a piece it was. Powys as early as 1915 claimed that it was a masterpiece, 'the most original single volume of modern poetry.' Ezra Pound was of the same opinion.
John Cowper then met Masters, in his law office in Chicago and was greatly impressed by 'a formidable man'.
For lack of all affectation, for treating poetry as gravely and simply as the old monks treated their art of illumination, as a thing done in the simple honour of the Lord of Life, Edgar Lee Masters will not soon find his equal. His generous and whole-hearted admiration for Vachel Lindsay has always impressed me a good deal;. for Mr. Masters is a born fighter, and willing enough to fall to fisticuffs with the Devil himself, and Lindsay moreover came from his own part of the country; but never once in my long friendship with him, that goes back, as I say, to 1915, have I ever heard him do anything but fiercely champion this mystical rival of his. (Autobiography)
See the fascinating
Poet's Corner
And E.L.Masters later described his friend thus:
One day a tall, rather bent man with frizzed black hair, with the manner of a traveling scholastic, was ushered in by Jake Prassel... He had a way of jiggling when he was excited, of kowtowing so to speak, of laughing with wide mouth, and thus exposing a great row of Piltdown teeth. His eyes were blue and penetrating but a little simian; his forehead above his eyes was ridged, and not very high. His head was small and compact and shapely. His manner reminded me of the friendly countrymen I had seen about my grandfather's farm, as he rubbed his hands, and laughed and exclaimed 'my word', and entered into everything I said with joyous sympathy, with deferential agreement. (Across Spoon River)

Where are Elmer, Herman, Bert, Tom and Charley,
The weak of will, the strong of arm, the clown, the boozer, the fighter?
All , all are sleeping on the hill.

One passed in a fever
One was burned in a mine,
One was killed in a brawl,
One died in jail,
One fell from a bridge toiling for children and wife —
All, all are sleeping, sleeping, sleeping on the hill.
E.L.Masters, Spoon River Anthology