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Rutherford McDowell

by Edgar Lee Masters, 1916

They brought me ambrotypes
 Of the old pioneers to enlarge.
 And sometimes one sat for me—
 Some one who was in being
 When giant hands from the womb of the world
 Tore the republic.
 What was it in their eyes?—
 For I could never fathom
 That mystical pathos of drooped eyelids,
 And the serene sorrow of their eyes.
 It was like a pool of water,
 Amid oak trees at the edge of a forest,
 Where the leaves fall,
 As you hear the crow of a cock
 From a far-off farm house, seen near the hills
 Where the third generation lives, and the strong men
 And the strong women are gone and forgotten.
 And these grand-children and great grand-children
 Of the pioneers!
 Truly did my camera record their faces, too,
 With so much of the old strength gone,
 And the old faith gone,
 And the old mastery of life gone,
 And the old courage gone,
 Which labors and loves and suffers and sings
 Under the sun!

Published in Spoon River Anthology

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