Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, JOHN WILKES BOOTH AT THE FARM (JANUARY 12, 1848), by EDGAR LEE MASTERS



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JOHN WILKES BOOTH AT THE FARM (JANUARY 12, 1848), by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Mother, I'm breathless! I have seen a man
Last Line: I am so frightened.
Subject(s): Booth, John Wilkes (1838-1865)


Mother, I'm breathless! I have seen a man,
The strangest man I ever saw. I'm scared!
I went down to the hollow, was at play,
Was marching with my broomstick gun -- and then
While I stood there and said "attention," playing
Soldier, you know, reciting to my soldiers,
I heard a voice -- looked round and saw this man.
He was enormous with a frightful face,
Black eyes, black hair, a voice that sounded like
Low thunder, though it could be soft and sweet.
And he said to me, "What's your name, my boy?"
I told him. Then he said, "Where is your father?"
I said, "My father's gone." "Where is your mother?"
"Up at the house," I answered. Then he asked,
"What are you doing here?" "Why, playing soldier."
"Are you a patriot?" And I said yes.
"Oh, no," he said, "your father was an actor;
I saw him play the part of Brutus often,
And you will be an actor, you've the look."
How did he know these things, do you suppose?
And then he said, "Recite for me." "I can't,"
I said to him. "O yes, you can," he said.
"You must recite for me." And I was scared,
Began to cry, and he said, "Hush, my boy,
I will not hurt you, but you must recite,
I want to see what you have memorized."
So I was choking, but I tried to do it:
"The tyrannous and bloody deed is done,
The most arch act of piteous massacre
That ever yet this land was guilty of." ...

"No Richard III," he said. "Here look at me!
Why do you dodge? Why not recite some words
From Brutus, for you know them, why, my boy?
You've heard your father speak the words of Brutus.
Why do you hide your knowledge? Look at me!"
He terrified me so that I began:
"It must be by his death: and for my part
I know no personal cause to spurn at him,
But for the general. He would be crowned:
How that might change his nature, there's the question.
It is the bright day that brings forth the adder."
I got so far and saw him looking down,
As if he saw -- I don't know what -- and then
I stopped and looked -- and there I saw an adder
Coiled close to me. I jumped and screamed. He laughed --
I ran away, and left him standing there.
Mother, I am afraid. Who was this man?
My head hurts. I'm afraid. Keep close to me --
I am so frightened.





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