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Photo of Edwin Markham.

April 23, 2018 – Edwin Markham, Other Writers’ & Poets’ Birthdays

Today is Monday, April 23, 2018. It’s the birthday of poet Edwin Markham. It’s also the birthday of perhaps the greatest playwright who ever lived, William Shakespeare. And on this date in 1953, the movie “Shane” was released in theaters. Our poem for today is Markham’s, “The Man with the Hoe.” Thank you for reading, and sharing, Bidwell Hollow.

Edwin Markham

Edwin Markham’s (affiliate link) mother didn’t approve of his interest in literature. But Markham pursued a life in letters anyway.Photo of Edwin Markham.

Markham, born on this date in 1852 in Oregon City, OR, began his career as an educator in California. But by the time he and his wife moved to New York City in 1901, he was writing poetry.

And Markham became involved in the workers’ rights movement. He frequented labor meetings and gave lectures on the abuse workers suffered at the hands of their employers.

Markham’s poem, “The Man with the Hoe,” is about the exploitation of laborers. He first read the poem at a New Year’s gathering in 1898.

A year later, Markham published the poem in his collection, “The Man with the Hoe and Other Poems.”

Markham’s other poetry books include “Gates of Paradise” and “Eighty Poems at Eighty.”

William Shakespeare

It’s the day celebrated as William Shakespeare’s (affiliate link) birthday.Photo of William Shakespeare.

Shakespeare started acting in 1592, around the time he started writing plays. He wrote comedies, tragedies, and historical dramas.

Shakespeare’s most famous plays, such as “Romeo and Juliet,” “Macbeth,” and “Hamlet,” were written between the mid-1590s and his retirement in 1612. The playwright wrote at least 37 plays.

In his writing, Shakespeare borrowed from Greek theatrical traditions, merging them with contemporary life. His works contained colorful puns and characters who delivered introspective monologues.

Shakespeare died in 1616. The cause of his death remains a mystery.

“Shane” is Released

On this date in 1953, a movie some called one of the greatest Westerns ever made was released.

The film, “Shane,” is based on the 1949 Jack Schaefer novel of the same name. The movie starred Alan Ladd as a gunfighter, named Shane, seeking to leave the violence of his past.

Shane encounters a cattle baron bullying Wyoming settlers. He feels compelled to help the pioneers.

The movie presented in Shane a new, more complex Western character than had previously been featured in films of that genre.

“The Man with the Hoe”

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?

Is this the Dream He dreamed who shaped the suns

And marked their ways upon the ancient deep?

Down all the stretch 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.

What gulfs between him and the seraphim!

Slave of the wheel of labor, what to him

Are Plato and the swing of Pleiades?

What the long reaches of the peaks of song,

The rift of dawn, the reddening of the rose?

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?

How will you ever straighten up this shape;

Touch it again with immortality;

Give back the upward looking and the light;

Rebuild in it the music and the dream,

Make right the immemorial infamies,

Perfidious wrongs, immedicable woes?

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?

– Edwin Markham (1852-1940), Public Domain

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Comments (2)

  • Naomi Kobayashi

    Monday, April 23, 2018, 1:15-ishPM (sunny’n’crisp in Medford OR at mid-day)
    I’ve written before; many thanks for this Brief Respite from the “Work-a-Day World” (or, in my case, “Retired” World!”)

    Stay well.


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