Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, WINTER GARDEN THEATRE, by EDGAR LEE MASTERS



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WINTER GARDEN THEATRE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: If you - if you had told me this before
Last Line: Look on your face again!
Subject(s): Booth, John Wilkes (1838-1865)


If you -- if you had told me this before,
If I had known of it -- if I had known,
I had not played to-night, no, by the gods,
I had not played Marc Antony, nor heard
You speak the words of Brutus. You -- my brother,
You nursed in liberty -- you nourished upon
Great thoughts and dreams, have soiled me, soiled the name
Of Booth, our father's name. Yes, you have soiled
All spirits free, all lofty souls, the soul
Of Brutus and of Shakespeare. Why, till now
Conceal from me your vote for Lincoln -- why?
Why? In your heart of hearts you are ashamed,
And loose the secret now for penitence!
For you have helped the hand that wrecks and slays
Who will be king and on these ruined States
Erect a throne. He who commenced this war,
And broke the law to do it. He who struck
The liberty of speech and of the press;
He who tore up the ancient writ of freemen,
And filled the jails against the law. Lincoln!
Into whose ears the shrieks of horror rise
From Gettysburg, Manassas -- yet who says
The will of God be done, for him you vote!
And walk these boards to-night and live the soul
Of Brutus, speak his words -- Oh! "Had you rather
Caesar were living and die all slaves than
That Caesar were dead to live all freemen." God!
You had this secret in your breast the while:
This vote for Lincoln, and these words of Brutus
Blown from the Shakespeare trumpet to our ears,
Hearts, consciences, meant what to you -- meant what?
Words for an actor, words for a lisping girl
Repeating them by rote! But why not truth
For men to live by, to be taken into
The beings of men for living? Oh, my God --
I hate you and I leave you. I shall never
Look on your face again!





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