Masters, Edgar Lee. "Seth Compton".
The poem is an epitaph of a dead philanthropist and lover of books who tells the story of his life and watches what is happening with his life's work from the other world.
The speaker devoted all his life to literature and education through it. But the circulating library which he built for Spoon River was sold at auction after his death. This is as if the last memory of him was destroyed together with the library. The speaker resigns and lets the Spoon River do as it likes, when he is now too far away to try to save anything.
Those who are incapable to see the value of literature often asked him: "What is the use of knowing the evil in the world?" He answers the question in the conclusion: "no one knows what is good / Who knows not what is evil".
- a short narrative poem in free verse
- naturalistic, stoic, presents tragedy in a matter-of-fact tone free of pathos
- manifests the waste of intellect by ignorant society
- general themes: the good/evil dichotomy, the usefulness of literature
AuthorMasters, Edgar Lee. (1868 - 1950).
Full Title"Seth Compton".
First PublishedIn: Spoon River Anthology. NY: MacMillan, 1915.
Masters, Edgar Lee. "Seth Compton". (1915). In: The Harper American Literature. Ed. Donald McQuade et al. 2nd Compact Edition. New York: Harper & Collins, 1996.