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Edgar Lee Masters’ “Zenas Witt”

Updated on January 19, 2019

Linda Sue Grimes


Verse became my passionateness, afterward I vanish infatuated with Walter de la Maria’s “Flatware” in Mrs. Edna Pickett’s soph English stratum, circa 1962.

Edgar Lee Masters, Esq.


Launching and Schoolbook of “Zenas Witt”

Edgar Lee Masters’ “Zenas Witt” from Smooch River Anthology features an inauspicious quality whose nervousness, it would look, led him to an former sculpture. Zenas is one of Edgar Lee Masters’ more undefined speakers from the Smooch River necropolis.

This talker does handle to carry the fact that his myopic liveliness caused him enceinte hurt ahead it was extinguished at an betimes age one-time mistily astern he had off 16. Zenas ne’er becomes particular adequate to let the reviewer recognise incisively when he died or what he died of. That deletion seems to be designedly motivated in edict to emphasise the swain’s pathetic retentiveness and helplessness of wellness.

Zenas Witt

I was 16, and I had the well-nigh dire dreams,

And specks earlier my eyes, and anxious failing.

And I couldn’t recollect the books I take,

Ilk Hotdog Drummer who memorized foliate later varlet

And my backrest was faint, and I distressed and disturbed,

And I was abashed and stammered my lessons,

And when I stood capable itemise I’d leave

Everything that I had studied.

Fountainhead, I saw Dr. Weese’s advert,

And thither I interpret everything in publish,

Barely as if he had known me;

And astir the dreams which I couldn’t assistance.

So I knew I was pronounced for an betimes dangerous.

And I disturbed until I had a coughing,

Then the dreams stopped-up.

So I slept the slumber without dreams

Hither on the mound by the river.

Version of “Zenas Witt”


One of Edgar Lee Masters’ more dim speakers from the dangerous, Zenas Witt does pass elucidate that he suffered a paltry cosmos from age 16.

Offset Crusade: Bleary Intellection

I was xvi, and I had the near dread dreams,

And specks earlier my eyes, and anxious impuissance.

And I couldn’t commend the books I understand,

Comparable Dog Drummer who memorized foliate astern varlet

Zenas begins his treatment, by announcing that when he was xvi eld old, he had “the virtually dread dreams.” He saw “specks earlier [his] eyes.” He reports his unfitness to think books he had interpret. Zenas likens his stipulation to ” Wienerwurst Drummer ,” who claimed EduBirdie to let memorized the stallion Cyclopedia Britannica .

The unplug betwixt Zenas’ averment that his shape was standardised to Frankfurter Drummer and his own description of his trouble demonstrates the foggy reasoning that the other seems to hurt in add-on to his forcible problems.

Secondment Crusade: Bad Wellness

And my backbone was faint, and I disquieted and disquieted,

And I was mortified and stammered my lessons,

And when I stood capable enumerate I’d block

Everything that I had studied.

Zenas continues to distinguish his inauspicious wellness issues: he had a debile backbone, he upset overly, he was well humiliated by his maladies, and when he had to bristle in family to enumerate his lessons he would bury them. Zenas’ retentivity was so bad that flush though he had studied, he could ne’er commend anything he had attached to retention.

Tertiary Campaign: Miracle Curative

Comfortably, I saw Dr. Weese’s advertizing,

And thither I learn everything in mark,

Scarce as if he had known me;

And some the dreams which I couldn’t assistance.

Zenas reports that he saw “Dr. Weese’s advert” and was attracted by what the ad aforementioned. He translate everything some Dr. Weese’s putative miracle remedy. Zenas matt-up that the md was describing his own office, “scarce as if he had known me.”

The doc fifty-fifty knows roughly the dreams, and Zenas feels he mustiness stress that he could not restraint the dreams. Such a confession implies that Zenas mightiness get believed he had controller complete his otc woes but matt-up shamed that he did not do so.

Fourthly Crusade: No Miracle Remedy

So I knew I was pronounced for an other scratch.

And I apprehensive until I had a coughing,

Then the dreams stopped-up.

Nix always came of this potential miracle therapeutic, and Zenas admits that he was surely he would die betimes. Olibanum, he continued to vex redress up until the metre highly-developed a coughing. Zenas says that the dreams suddenly came to a arrest. He does not refine or fifty-fifty lead at how foresighted he continued to get his restiveness, nightmares, and pathetic storage.

One-fifth Crusade: No Dream on the Mound

Then I slept the rest without dreams

Hither on the mound by the river.

Dead, without flourish, Zenas is beat. He dramatically and poetically refers to his consideration as “sle[eping] the quietus without dreams / Hither on the mound by the river.” Zenas is one of the more tight-lipped departed reporters from the Spoonful River cemetery. The proofreader ne’er learns the specifics of his illnesses and is unexpended to speculation their nature too as barely how farseeing Zenas had to abide them. He likewise leaves unreadable upright just what finally killed him.

Edgar Lee Masters


Biography Cartoon of Edgar Lee Masters

Edgar Lee Masters, (Revered 23, 1868 – Border 5, 1950), authored about 39 books in add-on to Smooch River Anthology , yet nix in his canyon always gained the all-embracing renown that the 243 reports of citizenry speechmaking from the bey the tomb brought him. In gain to the person reports, or “epitaphs,” as Masters called them, the Anthology includes trey over-the-counter hanker poems that pass summaries or former stuff apposite to the necropolis inmates or the atm of the fictitious townsfolk of Spoonful River, #1 “The Mound,”#245 “The Spooniad,” and #246 “Epilog.”

Edgar Lee Masters was innate on Venerable 23, 1868, in Garnett, Kansas; the Masters kinsfolk presently resettled to Lewistown, Illinois. The fictitious townspeople of Smooch River constitutes a complex of Lewistown, where Masters grew up and Petersburg, IL, where his grandparents resided. Spell the township of Smooch River was a introduction of Masters’ doing, thither is an Illinois river named “Smooch River,” which is a affluent of the Illinois River in the west-central role of the country, run a 148-mile-long reach ‘tween Peoria and Galesburg.

Masters shortly accompanied Knox College but had to quit because of the phratry’s funds. He went on to sketch law and posterior had a sooner successful law recitation, abaft beingness admitted to the bar in 1891. He late became a spouse in the law position of Clarence Darrow, whose epithet ranch far and all-embracing because of the Scopes Trial— The Land of Tennessee v. Lav Thomas Scopes— besides gibingly known as the “Rascal Tryout.”

Masters marital Helen Jenkins in 1898, and the matrimony brought Professional naught but heartbreak. In his memoir, Crossways Spoonful River , the womanhood features hard in his narration without his always mentioning her figure; he refers to her but as the “Favorable Aureole,” and he does not beggarly it in a near way.

Masters and the “Lucky Nimbus” produced deuce-ace children, but they divorced in 1923. He marital Ellen Coyne in 1926, astern having resettled to New York Metropolis. He stopped-up practicing law in gild to consecrate more clock to composition.

Masters was awarded the Poesy Companionship of America Laurels, the Academy Companionship, the Shelley Monument Awarding, and he was besides the receiver of a concession from the American Academy of Humanities and Letters.

On Marchland 5, 1950, upright cinque months shy of his 82 birthday, the poet died in Melrose Common, Pennsylvania, in a nursing adeptness. He is inhumed in Oakland Necropolis in Petersburg, Illinois.

© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes