Biography of Edwin Markham
Charles Edwin Anson Markham was an American poet.
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".
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 London, Carl Sandburg, Florence Earle Coates and Amy Lowell
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 250 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." Later that year, Markham was filmed reciting the poem by Lee De Forest in his Phonofilm sound-on-film process.
As recounted by literary biographer William R. Nash,between 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. 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.
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."
Edwin Markham's Works:
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)
Children in Bondage (1914)
California the Wonderful (1914)
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Edwin Markham Poems
The Man With The Hoe (Written After Seei...
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.
Lincoln, The Man Of The People
When the Norn Mother saw the Whirlwind Hour Greatening and darkening as it hurried on, She left the Heaven of Heroes and came down To make a man to meet the mortal need.
For all your days prepare, And meet them ever alike: When you are the anvil, bear-- When you are the hammer, Strike.
There is a destiny that makes us brothers: None goes his way alone: All that we send into the lives of others Comes back into our own.
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;
The Daring One
I would my soul were like the bird That dares the vastness undeterred. Look, where the bluebird on the bough Breaks into rapture even now!
For all your days prepare, And meet them ever alike: When you are the anvil, bear—
Lion And Lioness
ONE night we were together, you and I, And had unsown Assyria for a lair, Before the walls of Babylon rose in air.
Joy Of The Morning
I hear you, little bird, Shouting a-swing above the broken wall. Shout louder yet: no song can tell it all.
Rules For The Road
Stand straight: Step firmly, throw your weight: The heaven is high above your head, The good gray road is faithful to your tread
Teach me, Father, how to go Softly as the grasses grow; Hush my soul to meet the shock
Earth Is Enough
We men of Earth have here the stuff Of Paradise - we have enough! We need no other stones to build
Anchored To The Infinite
The builder who first bridged Niagara’s gorge, Before he swung his cable, shore to shore, Sent out across the gulf his venturing kite
In Death Valley
There came gray stretches of volcanic plains, Bare, lone and treeless, then a bleak lone hill Like to the dolorous hill that Dobell saw.
The Invisible Bride
The low-voiced girls that go
In gardens of the Lord,
Like flowers of the field they grow
In sisterly accord.
Their whispering feet are white
Along the leafy ways;
They go in whirls of light
Too beautiful for praise.