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

167. Silas Dement


IT was moon-light, and the earth sparkled 
With new-fallen frost. 
It was midnight and not a soul was abroad. 
Out of the chimney of the court-house 
A grey-hound of smoke leapt and chased         5
The northwest wind. 
I carried a ladder to the landing of the stairs 
And leaned it against the frame of the trap-door 
In the ceiling of the portico, 
And I crawled under the roof and amid the rafters  10
And flung among the seasoned timbers 
A lighted handful of oil-soaked waste. 
Then I came down and slunk away. 
In a little while the fire-bell rang— 
Clang! Clang! Clang!  15
And the Spoon River ladder company 
Came with a dozen buckets and began to pour water 
On the glorious bon-fire, growing hotter, 
Higher and brighter, till the walls fell in, 
And the limestone columns where Lincoln stood  20
Crashed like trees when the woodman fells them... 
When I came back from Joliet 
There was a new court house with a dome. 
For I was punished like all who destroy 
The past for the sake of the future.  25


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