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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Edwin Markham
Edwin Markham
Charles Edwin Anson Markham was born on April 23, 1852 in Oregon...
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FURTHER READING
Other Ekphrastic Poems
Purgatorio, Canto X
by Dante Alighieri
The Iliad, Book XVIII, [The Shield of Achilles]
by Homer
a woman peeling apples, with a small child
by Pattie McCarthy
All those Attempts in the Changing Room!
by Anne Stevenson
Archaic Torso of Apollo
by Rainer Maria Rilke
Die Muhle Brennt--Richard
by Richard Matthews
Hagar in the Wilderness
by Tyehimba Jess
In a Blue Wood
by Richard Levine
Incomplete Lioness
by Linda Bierds
Joseph Cornell, with Box
by Michael Dumanis
Landscape With The Fall of Icarus
by William Carlos Williams
M. Degas Teaches Art & Science at Durfee Intermediate School, Detroit 1942
by Philip Levine
Mural with HUD Housing & School Bus (1980)
by Adrian Matejka
Museum Guard
by David Hernandez
Ode on a Grecian Urn
by John Keats
On Seeing Larry Rivers' Washington Crossing the Delaware at the Museum of Modern Art
by Frank O'Hara
On Seeing the Elgin Marbles
by John Keats
On the Medusa of Leonardo Da Vinci in the Florentine Gallery
by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Photograph of People Dancing in France
by Leslie Adrienne Miller
Seeing All the Vermeers
by Alfred Corn
Stealing The Scream
by Monica Youn
The Abolition of Reality [Georges Seurat]
by Adriano Spatola
The Family Photograph
by Vona Groarke
The Mad Potter
by John Hollander
The Painting
by John Balaban
The Picture of Little T. C. in a Prospect of Flowers
by Andrew Marvell
The Shield of Achilles
by W. H. Auden
To Haydon with a Sonnet Written on Seeing the Elgin Marbles
by John Keats
War Photograph
by Kate Daniels
Why knowing is (& Matisse's Woman with a Hat)
by Martha Ronk
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The Man with the Hoe

 
by Edwin Markham

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?









Inspired by the painting L'homme à la houe by Jean-François Millet
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