The Hill

Original Text: 
Edgar Lee Masters, Spoon River Anthology, illustrated by Oliver Herford (London: T. Werner Laurie, [1916]): 1-2. 8-NBI Masters New York Public Library.
1Where are Elmer, Herman, Bert, Tom and Charley,
2The weak of will, the strong of arm, the clown, the boozer, the fighter?
4One passed in a fever,
5One was burned in a mine,
6One was killed in a brawl,
7One died in a jail,
8One fell from a bridge toiling for children and wife --
9All, all are sleeping, sleeping, sleeping on the hill.
10Where are Ella, Kate, Mag, Lizzie and Edith,
11The tender heart, the simple soul, the loud, the proud, the happy one? --
12All, all are sleeping on the hill.
13One died in shameful child-birth,
14One of a thwarted love,
15One at the hands of a brute in a brothel,
16One of a broken pride, in the search for heart's desire,
17One after life in far-away London and Paris
18Was brought to her little space by Ella and Kate and Mag --
19All, all are sleeping, sleeping, sleeping on the hill.
23With venerable men of the revolution? --
24All, all are sleeping on the hill.
25They brought them dead sons from the war,
26And daughters whom life had crushed,
27And their children fatherless, crying --
28All, all are sleeping, sleeping, sleeping on the hill.
30Who played with life all his ninety years,
31Braving the sleet with bared breast,
32Drinking, rioting, thinking neither of wife nor kin,
33Nor gold, nor love, nor heaven?
34Lo! he babbles of the fish-frys of long ago,
36Of what Abe Lincoln said


3] the hill: Oak Hill Cemetery, Lewistown, Illinois. Back to Line
20] Uncle Isaac: Isaac Bird Masters, the poet's uncle (Charles E. Burgess, "Some Family Source Material for Spoon River Anthology," Western Illinois Regional Studies 13 [1990]: 80-89). Aunt Emily: Emmeline Masters McLaughlin, his aunt. Back to Line
21] neighbours of the poet's grandparents. Back to Line
22] Major Newton Walker, a Lewistown builder (Josephine Craven Chandler, "The Spoon River Country," Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 14 [1921-22]: 298-301). Back to Line
29] John Jones (Chandler, 265-66). Back to Line
35] near Petersburg, Illinois. Back to Line
37] On February 22, 1861, Abraham Lincoln, in his farewell speech in Springfield, Illinois, his home, said: "My friends -- No one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe every thing. Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young to an old man. Here my children have been born, and one is buried. I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of that Divine Being, who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance, I cannot fail. Trusting in Him, who can go with me, and remain with you and be every where for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell" (Lincoln Home, National Historic Site, Illinois; site visited May 21, 2003). Back to Line
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: