The Hill

from The Spoon River Anthology
by Edgar Lee Masters

"The Hill" is the first selection in Masters' Spoon River Anthology. The original work was published as a serialized version in 1914-15.

In the Anthology, the dead in an Illinois graveyard relay, in matter-of-fact but haunting tones, details from their lives. The Anthology was original, provocative and influentual. Its literary significance has been compared with Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass [published in 1855].

Masters wove a thread of partial reality throughout the Anthology. Many of the characters and their experiences can be identified with former residents of Lewistown and Petersburg, Illinois. Masters' used his childhood experiences in these two communities, as a basis for the poems.

The Hill

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 a jail,
One fell from a bridge toiling for children and wife-
All, all are sleeping, sleeping, sleeping on the hill.

Where are Ella, Kate, Mag, Lizzie and Edith,
The tender heart, the simple soul, the loud, the proud, the happy one?--
All, all are sleeping on the hill.

One died in shameful child-birth,
One of a thwarted love,
One at the hands of a brute in a brothel,
One of a broken pride, in the search for heart's desire;
One after life in far-away London and Paris
Was brought to her little space by Ella and Kate and Mag--
All, all are sleeping, sleeping, sleeping on the hill.

Where are Uncle Isaac and Aunt Emily,
And old Towny Kincaid and Sevigne Houghton,
And Major Walker who had talked With venerable men of the revolution?--
All, all are sleeping on the hill.

They brought them dead sons from the war,
And daughters whom life had crushed,
And their children fatherless, crying--
All, all are sleeping, sleeping, sleeping on the hill.
Where is Old Fiddler Jones
Who played with life all his ninety years,
Braving the sleet with bared breast,
Drinking, rioting, thinking neither of wife nor kin,
Nor gold, nor love, nor heaven?
Lo! he babbles of the fish-frys of long ago,
Of the horse-races of long ago at Clary's Grove,
Of what Abe Lincoln said
One time at Springfield.

"Nicholas Bindle", another poem from the Spoon River Anthology

More about E.L. Masters and the Spoon River Anthology


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