Godbey, a Dramatic Poem
GODBEY A Dramatic Poem

By Edgar Lee Masters

In 1931, after the success of his Spoon River Anthology, Edgar Lee Masters published the epic poem, Godbey. It was published by Dodd, Mead & Company of New York, in a limited edition of three hundred and forty seven numbered copies, each autographed by the author.

The protagonist is known simply as "Godbey" - no first name. The book is 249 pages in length, and picks up (more or less) where Master's poem Jack Kelso ends.

Master's note in prologue explains that as the poem Jack Kelso ends, he has walked across the continent to Concord Church, near New Salem. Just before Kelso arrives, Godbey, then a young boy of about twelve years old, has chased a bird feigning distress and falles into a well. Kelso finds him and saves him, but in doing so, falls dead himself. The poem begins with Godbey, now toward middle age, returning to the Concord well, and lying in meditation.

The poem begins:


Here will I rest me now
By this remembered stream
Cares which oppressed me now
Fly as I sink to dream,
Hills, fields around me here
So changed are since I fell
Down and he found me here
In this abandoned well.

Come, beauty, come bird
Which ever feigns
Heart pains,
The broken wing
To lure.
Deceiver to my steps, which erred,
Led insecure,
Escape not now my hastening;
Be mine at last, nor cry, but sing,
My hope restore.

I have come back
By a devious track
To the place of my youth.
I have found life
Unending strife,
False mixd with truth.
Racing to seize
The prize, soul peace,
I have fallen defeated,
Finding so oft repeated
The bird, this well,
On each ascended plane,
Again and yet again.
Youth time will see
The symbol key
all one's days to be,
But in such trivial things secreted.
Mind well what happens then
Yourself to know.
The embryo
Of Fate to three score ten
May be a bird that to a well retreated.

-- Edgar Lee Masters, Godbey