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Edwin Markham

Born April 23, 1852(1852-04-23)
Oregon City, Oregon
Died March 7, 1940 (aged 87)
Occupation Poet
Nationality American
For other uses, see E. A. Markham.

Charles Edwin Anson Markham (April 23, 1852 - March 7, 1940) was an American poet.

Contents

Life

Edwin Markham was born in Oregon City, Oregon and was the youngest of 10 children; his parents divorced shortly after his birth. At the age of four, he moved to Lagoon Valley, an area northeast of San Francisco; there, he lived with his sister and mother. He worked on the family’s farm beginning at twelve. Although his mother was opposed to his pursuing higher education, he studied literature at the California College in Vacaville, California, and received his teacher's certificate in 1870. In 1872 he graduated from San Jose State Normal School, and in 1873 finished his studies of classics at Christian College in Santa Rosa. He went by "Charles" until about 1895, when he was about 43, when he started using "Edwin".[1]

In 1898, Markham married his third wife, Anna Catherine Murphy (1859-1938) and in 1899 their son Virgil was born. They moved to New York City in 1901, where they lived in Brooklyn and then Staten Island. Edwin Markham had, by the time of his death, amassed a huge personal library of 15 000+ volumes. This collection was bequeathed to Wagner College's Horrmann Library, located on Staten Island. Markham also willed his personal papers to the library. Edwin's correspondents included Franklin D. Roosevelt, Ambrose Bierce, Jack and Charmian[2] London, Carl Sandburg, Florence Earle Coates[3] and Amy Lowell.

Career

L'homme à la houe by Jean-François Millet
A photograph of Markham in his later years

Markham taught literature in El Dorado County until 1879, when he became education superintendent of the county. While residing in El Dorado County, Markham became a member of Placerville Masonic Lodge. Charles also accepted a job as principal of Tompkins Observation School in Oakland, California in 1890. While in Oakland, he became well acquainted with many other famous contemporary writers and poets, such as Joaquin Miller, Ina Coolbrith, Charles Warren Stoddard, and Edmund Clarence Stedman.

Edwin's most famous poem was first presented at a public poetry reading in 1898. He read "The Man With the Hoe," which accented laborers' hardships. His main inspiration was a French painting of the same name (in French, L'homme à la houe) by Jean-François Millet. Markham's poem was published, and it became quite popular very soon. In New York, he gave many lectures to labor groups. These happened as often as his poetry readings.

In 1922, Markham's poem, Lincoln, the Man of the People, was selected from two hundred and fifty entries to be read at the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial. The author himself, read the poem. Of it, Dr. Henry Van Dyke, of Princeton said,"Edwin Markham's Lincoln is the greatest poem ever written on the immortal martyr, and the greatest that ever will be written."

As recounted by literary biographer William R. Nash, [4] "'['b]etween publications, Markham lectured and wrote in other genres, including essays and nonfiction prose. He also gave much of his time to organizations such as the Poetry Society of America, which he established in 1910. In 1922, at the conclusion to the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial, Markham read a revised version of his poem, "Lincoln the Man of the People."[5] Throughout Markham's later life, many readers viewed him as an important voice in American poetry, a position signified by honors such as his election in 1908 to the National Institute of Arts and Letters. Despite his numerous accolades, however, none of his later books achieved the success of the first two.

Legacy

Five schools in California were named in honor of Edwin Markham, two elementary school in Vacaville, California, named Edwin Markham Elementary School, and in Hayward, California, named Edwin Markham Elementary School, two middle schools in Placerville and San Jose, California, named Edwin Markham Middle School (although the San Jose school has since been renamed Willow Glen Middle School), and Markham Middle School in South Central Los Angeles.

Schools in other states name in his honor include: Edwin Markham Intermediate School 51 in Staten Island, Edwin Markham Elementary in Pasco, Washington, Edwin Markham Elementary School in Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania, and Markham Elementary in Portland, Oregon.

"The change in Markham’s literary significance has been tied to the development of modernist poetry and his steadfast refusal to change to meet the increasing demands arising with the appearance of poets such as Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, and William Carlos Williams. Their emphasis on changes in literary forms and their movement away from social commentary and political topics made much of what distinguished Markham's verse dated. He gradually fell from critical favor, and his reputation never fully recovered.

"Nevertheless, despite the critics' increasing disenchantment with him, Markham remained an important public figure, traveling across the nation and receiving warm praise nearly everywhere he went. At his home on Staten Island, his birthday was a local school holiday, and children marked the event by covering his lawn with flowers. The crowning glory came on Markham’s eightieth birthday, when a number of prominent citizens, including President Herbert Hoover, honored his accomplishments at a party in Carnegie Hall and named him one of the most important artists of his age. In 1936 Markham suffered a debilitating stroke from which he never fully recovered; he died at his home on Staten Island, New York.

"In his day Markham managed to fuse art and social commentary in a manner that guaranteed him a place among the most famous artists of the late nineteenth century. His reputation has faded because of the somewhat dated nature of his verse; nevertheless, he remains a notable figure for his contributions to American poetry. His work stands as an example of what American critics and readers valued near the turn of the century. His poetry offers insight into an important phase in the development of American letters."

Bibliography

Poetry

  • The Man With the Hoe and Other Poems - (1899)
  • Lincoln and Other Poems - (1901)
  • The Shoes of Happiness and Other Poems - (1913)
  • Gates of Paradise - (1920)
  • Eighty Poems at Eighty - (1932)
  • The Ballad of the Gallows Bird - (published 1960)

Prose

  • Children in Bondage (1914)
  • California the Wonderful (1914)

References

External links

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Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

The crest and crowning of all good,
Life’s final star, is Brotherhood.

Charles Edwin Anson Markham (23 April 18527 March 1940) was an American poet, most famous for his poem, The Man With the Hoe.

Contents

Sourced

The Man with the Hoe and Other Poems (1899)

The Man With the Hoe (1898)

Bowed by the weight of centuries he leans
Upon his hoe and gazes on the ground,
The emptiness of ages in his face,
And on his back the burden of the world.
Inspired by the painting L'homme à la houe by Jean-François Millet, this poem was first presented as a public poetry reading at a New Year's Eve party in 1898 and was published soon afterwards. (Full text online, with the painting)
  • Bowed by the weight of centuries he leans
    Upon his hoe and gazes on the ground,
    The emptiness of ages in his face,
    And on his back the burden of the world.
    Who made him dead to rapture and despair,
    A thing that grieves not and that never hopes.
    Stolid and stunned, a brother to the ox?
    Who loosened and let down this brutal jaw?
    Whose was the hand that slanted back this brow?
    Whose breath blew out the light within this brain?
  • Is this the Thing the Lord God made and gave
    To have dominion over sea and land;
    To trace the stars and search the heavens for power;
    To feel the passion of Eternity?
  • Down all the stretches of Hell to its last gulf
    There is no shape more terrible than this —
    More tongued with censure of the world's blind greed —
    More filled with signs and portents for the soul —
    More fraught with menace to the universe.
  • Through this dread shape the suffering ages look;
    Time's tragedy is in the aching stoop;
    Through this dread shape humanity betrayed,
    Plundered, profaned, and disinherited,
    Cries protest to the Powers that made the world.
    A protest that is also a prophecy.
  • O masters, lords and rulers in all lands,
    Is this the handiwork you give to God,
    This monstrous thing distorted and soul-quenched?
  • O masters, lords and rulers in all lands
    How will the Future reckon with this Man?
    How answer his brute question in that hour
    When whirlwinds of rebellion shake all shores?
    How will it be with kingdoms and with kings —
    With those who shaped him to the thing he is —
    When this dumb Terror shall rise to judge the world.
    After the silence of the centuries?
Our hope is in heroic men,
Star-led to build the world again.
To this Event the ages ran:
Make way for Brotherhood — make way for Man.

Brotherhood

  • The crest and crowning of all good,
    Life's final star, is Brotherhood
    ;
    For it will bring again to Earth
    Her long-lost Poesy and Mirth;
    Will send new light on every face,
    A kingly power upon the race.
    And till it come, we men are slaves,
    And travel downward to the dust of graves.
  • Come, clear the way, then, clear the way:
    Blind creeds and kings have had their day.

    Break the dead branches from the path;
    Our hope is in the aftermath —
    Our hope is in heroic men,
    Star-led to build the world again.
    To this Event the ages ran:
    Make way for Brotherhood — make way for Man.

The Shoes of Happiness, and Other Poems (1913)

He drew a circle that shut me out —
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in.
  • He drew a circle that shut me out —
    Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
    But Love and I had the wit to win:
    We drew a circle that took him in.
    • "Outwitted"

The Crowning Hour

Our ways go wide and I know not whither,
But my song will search through the worlds for you,
Till the Seven Seas waste and the Seven Stars wither,
And the dream of the heart comes true.
I will find you there where our low life heightens,
Where the door of the Wonder again unbars,
Where the old love lures and the old fire whitens,
In the Stars behind the stars.
  • It was ages ago in life's first wonder
    I found you, Virgilia, wild sea-heart;
    And 'twas ages ago that we went asunder,
    Ages and worlds apart.

    Your luminous face and your hair's dark glory,
    I knew them of old by an ocean-stream,
    In a far, first world now turned to story,
    Now faded back to dream.

    • I
  • We are caught in the coil of a God's romances —
    We come from old worlds and we go afar:
    I have missed you again in the Earth's wild chances —
    Now to another star!

    Perhaps we are led and our loves are fated,
    And our steps are counted one by one;
    Perhaps we shall meet and our souls be mated,
    After the burnt-out sun.

    For over the world a dim hope hovers,
    The hope at the heart of all our songs —
    That the banded stars are in league with lovers,
    And fight against their wrongs.

    • II
  • If this is a dream, then perhaps our dreaming
    Can touch life's height to a finer fire:
    Who knows but the heavens and all their seeming
    Were made by the heart's desire?

    One thing shines clear in the heart's sweet reason,
    One lightning over the chasm runs —
    That to turn from love is the world's one treason
    That darkens all the suns.

    • II
  • So I go to the long adventure, lifting
    My face to the far, mysterious goals,
    To the last assize, to the final sifting
    Of gods and stars and souls.
    • II
  • Our ways go wide and I know not whither,
    But my song will search through the worlds for you,
    Till the Seven Seas waste and the Seven Stars wither,
    And the dream of the heart comes true.

    I am out to the roads and the long, long questing,
    On dark tides driven, on great winds blown:
    I pass the runs of the world, unresting,
    I sail to the unknown.

  • There are more lives yet, there are more worlds waiting,
    For the way climbs up to the eldest sun,
    Where the white ones go to their mystic mating,
    And the Holy Will is done.
    • III
  • I will find you there where our low life heightens,
    Where the door of the Wonder again unbars,
    Where the old love lures and the old fire whitens,
    In the Stars behind the stars.
    • III
  • It will all come back — the wasted splendor,
    The heart's lost youth like a breaking flower,
    The dauntless dare, and the wistful, tender
    Touch of the April hour.
    • III
  • As we go star-stilled in the mystic garden,
    All the prose of this life run there to rhyme,
    How eagerly then will the poor heart pardon
    All of these hurts of Time!

    Ah, yes, in that hour of our souls dream-driven,
    In that high, white hour, O my wild sea-bride,
    The tears and the years will be all forgiven, ...
    And all be justified.

    • III

About Edwin Markham

  • His reputation has faded because of the somewhat dated nature of his verse; nevertheless, he remains a notable figure for his contributions to American poetry. His work stands as an example of what American critics and readers valued near the turn of the century. His poetry offers insight into an important phase in the development of American letters.

External links

Wikipedia
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