Edwin Markham

Edwin Markham

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Edwin Markham, the youngest of ten children, was born in Oregon City on 23rd April, 1852. When he was a child his family moved to California. Markham attended rural schools before finding work as a farm labourer.

In 1868 he entered California College and after graduating four years later, became a teacher at San Luis. This was followed by periods in Santa Rosa and Coloma before being appointed headteacher of a school in Hayward.

Markham also wrote poetry and his work was published in the Overland Monthly and Scribner's Magazine. In January 1899, he most famous poem, The Man with the Hoe, appeared in the San Francisco Examiner.

Markham's first collection of poems, The Man and the Hoe and Other Poems, appeared later that year. This was followed by further collections including Lincoln and Other Poems (1901), California the Wonderful (1915), Gates of Paradise (1920), Ballad of the Gallows Bird (1926), Eighty Poems at Eighty (1932) and Collected Poems (1940).

Markham's concern for the welfare of the underdog made him popular with radicals and Benjamin Flower described him as "democracy's greatest poet". Children of Bondage, a book that Markham wrote with Ben Lindsey, George Creel and Owen Lovejoy on the exploitation of young workers, is considered to have influenced the federal government's attempts to control child labour.

Edwin Markham died in 7th March, 1940.

Edwin Markham, democracy's greatest poet, is the reflector of the mighty spiritual undercurrent of our age. He represents the new conscience and the broadening spiritual ideals of our wonderful age.

One of his most important recent works is entitled Children of Bondage. It is one of the most compelling and conscience-stirring volumes that our wonderful age has produced, dealing with the moral crime of child labour or the slavery of the little ones which dwarfs their physical, mental, and moral natures and robs them of the heritage that should be the right of every free-born child.

In unaired rooms, mothers and fathers sew by day and by night. Those in the home sweatshop must work cheaper than those in the factory sweatshops.

And the children are called in from play to drive and drudge beside their elders.

All the year in New York and in other cities you may watch children radiating to and from such pitiful homes. Nearly any hour on the East Side of New York City you can see them - pallid boy or spindling girl - their faces dulled, their backs bent under a heavy load of garments piled on head and shoulders, the muscles of the whole frame in a long strain.

Is it not a cruel civilization that allows little hearts and little shoulders to strain under these grown-up responsibilities, while in the same city, a pet cur is jeweled and pampered and aired on a fine lady's velvet lap on the beautiful boulevards?

The Man with a 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 caverns of Hell to their last gulf

There is no shape more terrible than this--

More tongued with cries against the world's blind greed--

More filled with signs and portents for the soul--

More packed with danger 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 the 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 that 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 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 is Born

Today in Masonic History Edwin Markham is born in 1852.

Edwin Markham was an American poet.

Markham was born Charles Edward Anson Markham on April 23rd, 1852 in Oregon City, Oregon. The youngest of 10 children, his parents were divorced by the age of four. His mother moved him and sister to Lagoon Valley, just north of San Francisco. Starting at the age of twelve he began working on the family farm. His mother did not want him to continue his education. Despite of this, he did continue his education, first at California College in Vacaville, California. There he received a teaching certificate in 1870. Next he graduated from San Jose State Normal School in 1872. Finally he finished his studies of classics at Christian College in Santa Rosa, California.

After graduating, Markham taught literature in El Dorado County in California. In 1879, he became the education superintendent in El Dorado County. In 1890 he accepted a job as principal Tompkins Observation School in Oakland, California.

It was sometime around 1895 when Markham started going by Edwin instead of Charles.

In 1898, Markham met and married his third wife. The couple moved to Rio De Janeiro in 1900 with their son. There they studied the natives, before moving to New York City, New York.

It was also in 1898, Markham first read his most famous poem publically, &ldquoThe Man with the Hoe.&rdquo The poem was about the hardship of laborers. The poem was inspired by a French painting of the same name. The poem led to Markham giving many lectures to labor groups.

In 1922, Markham won a contest with his poem &ldquoLincoln, Man of the People.&rdquo Markham read the poem at the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial. He later read the poem on film.

Markham also gave much of his time to the Poetry Society of America, which he founded in 1910.

Markham passed away on March 7th, 1940.

Markham was a member of Acacia Lodge No. 92 of Coloma, California. He after affiliated with El Dorado Lodge No. 26 in Placerville, California. The Grand Lodge of Oregon nominated him as poet laureate of American Freemasonry. In 1935 he was awarded the Masters Medal of the Grand Lodge of New York. It is unclear what lodge, if any, he was affiliated with in New York.

Edwin Markham

Edwin Markham was born Charles Edward Anson Markham in Oregon City, Ore., on April 23, 1852, the youngest of 10 children. When he was 4, his mother took him to a small farm north of San Francisco shortly thereafter she remarried. Markham attended rural schools, worked as a cowboy and ranch hand, ran away from home at least once, and at the age of 16 entered California College in Vacaville. Two years later he transferred to San Jose State Normal School, from which he graduated in 1872.

Markham's first teaching jobs were in the mountains of San Luis Obispo County, Calif., then at Christian College in Santa Rosa, and finally at Coloma. In 1875 he married Annie Cox and became county superintendent of schools. In 1884 he divorced his wife and became a school headmaster in Hayward. In 1887 he remarried and became a school principal in Oakland. During the next 10 years, under the adopted name of Edwin Markham, he built up a small reputation as a poet in the pages of the Century Magazine, the Overland Monthly, and Scribner's Magazine. On his first trip east, in 1893, he met William Dean Howells and Edmund Clarence Stedman both had admired his work. He married his third wife, Anna Murphy, in 1897.

On Jan. 15, 1899, the San Francisco Examiner published "The Man with the Hoe," 49 lines of traditional blank verse inspired by Jean François Millet's painting. This protest against exploited labor "flew eastward across the continent like a contagion" and on around the world. Its popularity cannot be overestimated. Before the year was out, Markham's first collection, The Man with the Hoe and Other Poems, appeared. He followed it with Lincoln and Other Poems (1901).

For the next 40 years Markham's reputation slowly deflated as newer poetic styles came into fashion. His later volumes—The Shoes of Happiness (1915), The Gates of Paradise (1920), and New Poems (1932)—reveal a continuing concern for the underdog but also, in the love lyrics and the flights of rhetoric, a thin reedy voice coupled with a pedestrian vocabulary. As a lecturer and literary journalist, however, Markham traveled the familiar circuits, delighting women's clubs. Most notable was the invitation of former president William Howard Taft in 1922 to read "Lincoln, the Man of the People" at the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The Markhams had moved to Brooklyn in 1900. The East, thereafter, was their home, particularly Staten Island. Before his death, on March 7, 1940, Markham received innumerable honors as the "Dean of American Poetry." But, with the exception of his now legendary poem, lasting fame was not his.

Collection inventory

Edwin Markham (1852-1940) was an American author and poet. Born and raised in California, he taught literature there until 1879 when he became Superintendent of Education for El Dorado County. Five California schools are named for him. In 1901 he relocated to Staten Island in New York, where he established the Poetry Society of America in 1910. In addition to his teaching, he wrote poetry and essays and lectured in numerous venues.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Edwin Markham Collection consists of correspondence, manuscripts, and a small amount of miscellany.

Correspondence contains four letters, two outgoing and two incoming. In one, writing to John Elfreth Watkins, he says of his mother that she "held her ground alone. as the head of a family for thirty years," and that ". the first and only play she ever took me to from our mountain home was Ten Nights in a Bar Room. None of her boys ever took to strong drink."

Manuscripts contains manuscripts for two essays and a poem, as well as one stanza of his well-known poem "Outwitted."

Miscellany consists of a broadside, a cancelled check, and a few clippings.

Arrangement of the Collection

Letter are in chronological order. Manuscripts are in alphabetical order by title. Miscellany is in alphabetical order by type.


Access Restrictions

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Edwin Markham - History

by Professor Annette Nellen, Professor, SJSU College of Business

Edwin Markham graduated from the California State Normal School in 1872. Markham was a teacher, school administrator, poet, lecturer, champion of social issues, and good friend of the Normal School and its successor San Jose State Teachers College. Despite his world fame subsequent to the 1899 publication of his most famous poem - The Man with the Hoe, he remained involved with the campus in a number of ways. A handwritten copy of his poem "The Song Mystery," appeared in the June 1904 edition of The Normal Pennant which also notes a letter the student editorial staff received from him. That letter (p 41) included this excerpt: "I thank you for your very kind thought of me and Mrs. Markham and she joins me in sending you and your class-comrades greetings and God-speed on the new life-path opening before you."

Markham delivered a lecture on campus in 1915 where President Dailey introduced him to an audience of more than 400 as "the most distinguished graduate" of the school. In the 1920s, Markham promoted the work of San Jose State Teachers College Professor Henry Meade Bland to help him to be named as the California Poet Laureate in 1929. In an article Markham wrote for the college paper about Bland's appointment, Markham described poetry as follows:

Poetry writing is as practical as bread-making and, from a high ground, it is just as necessary to the life of man. Poetry is bread for the spirit: it is the bread that is made of earthly wheat and yet is mixed with some mystic tincture of the skies. It nourishes all the higher hopes and aspirations of man. [1]

The May 1928 edition of The Quill, a publication by the English Club, was dedicated to Edwin Markham. Markham served as the judge of the student poetry contest for The Quill for that month. In his introduction to this edition, San Jose State Teachers College professor and poet, Dr. Henry Meade Bland noted that the "name Edwin Markham, is synonymous with all that is good and true in poetry." Dr. Bland also noted Markham's interest in social issues revealed in his poetry: "He has a picture of a social dream of happiness for humanity which, although it may be afar off, he believes the world will attain to. He is a disciple of beauty, and strives to arrive at this ideal in his lines. He is a serious student of contemporary thought and poetic art and perhaps knows the poetry of today better than any man now living."

In 1932, the college held an assembly to honor Markham's 80 th birthday (he was born April 23, 1852). This was one of many such celebrations held to honor Mr. Markham. The college paper noted that a celebration in New York would include representatives from 63 countries and that "San Jose State may well be proud of fostering such a famous man." [2] On November 27, 1933, the Pegasus Club for creative writing sponsored a lecture by Mr. Markham on campus. [click here to read one of the college newspaper articles about the event]

Markham resided in San Jose for some time. His famous poem, "The Man with the Hoe," was written in a small home at 432 South Eighth Street. [3] While the house has been moved to History Park and serves as headquarters of Poetry Center San Jose, a plaque has been placed at the original site which is next to the AS Child Development Center. [4]

Markham wrote several books of poetry: The Man with the Hoe and Other Poems Lincoln, and Other Poems The Shoes of Happiness, and Other Poems and New Poems: Eighty Songs at Eighty. He also wrote a book about one of his labor concerns in Children in Bondage: The Child Labor Problems. In addition, he published a 10-volume work on poetry entitled The Book of Poetry. One of his poems - Lincoln, the Man of the People, was read by Markham at the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC on May 30, 1922.

Markham died on March 7, 1940 at his home in New York. The obituary in the New York Times (3/8/40) referred to Mr. Markham as the "dean of American poets." It also referred to his most famous poem - The Man with the Hoe, as likely being the world's most profitable poem earning Markham about $250,000 over 33 years. The San Francisco Chronicle (3/8/40) noted that at the time of his death, Markham had over 30,000 books of poetry, history and philosophy in his Staten Island home.

While Markham appears to have been somewhat of a celebrity from 1899 to his death in 1940, he is not as well known today, although his name and a few of his poems are referenced often on the Internet. One writer suggests that this obscurity stems from Markham's continued focus on societal issues in his poetry rather than shifting to the 20 th century style of such poets as Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot. [5] Markham's archives are housed primarily at Wagner College in New York where Markham's son Virgil was chair of the English Department in 1940. [6]

[1] Markham , "Old Friendship Between Poets Inspiring," State College Times, March 22, 1929.

[2] "Assembly To Be Held Tomorrow In Poet's Honor," State College Times, April 20, 1932.

Edwin Markham (1852-1940)

Throughout most of his life, Edwin Markham was known as the Dean of American Poetry, the Laureate of Labor, and—in his own words—the Poet Highwayman. His work as a poet and social reformer brought him recognition throughout the West and across the United States. He founded the Poetry Society of America in 1910 and served as Oregon’s first poet laureate, from 1923 to 1931.

Born in Oregon City on April 23, 1852, Markham grew up on a farm, which provided him with many of the images and themes that would appear in his poetry. His childhood was colored by an absent father and an oppressive mother, Elizabeth Winchell Markham. Reportedly, Markham ran away when he was fifteen years old in reaction to his mother’s spitefulness and the limits she put on his education. He later claimed to have fallen in with a highwayman, with whom he lived a life of crime for several months before entering California College in 1868.

After earning a teaching certificate in 1870, Markham began several decades of working in schools, earning a position as a county superintendent in Placerville, California in 1879. Although he published his poems in newspapers and magazines in the 1880s and 1890s, it was not until the turn of the twentieth century that he achieved national recognition.

Markham is best known for “The Man with the Hoe,” a work that sparked significant controversy after it was first published in the San Francisco Examiner in January 1899. Based on a painting by French artist Jean Francois Millet entitled Man with a Hoe, Markham’s poem was seen as a commentary on the plight of the working class and became an anthem for the American labor movement. Over the years, the poem appeared in over ten thousand periodicals and in at least forty languages. It was considered so powerful that railroad magnate Collis Huntington pledged $5,000 for a work that would counter Markham’s inflammatory verse—an offer that was never met.

While “The Man with the Hoe” brought Markham fame as a social reformer, much of his work dealt with romantic themes. He was influenced by Ambrose Bierce, who preferred Markham’s more idealistic poetry. Bierce denounced Markham's radicalism, charging that he was “spreading that gospel of hate known as ‘industrial brotherhood’.” Literary critic and novelist Hamlin Garland, who Markham met in Chicago in 1893, also shaped his literary development. Unlike Bierce, Garland admired Markham’s progressive and reformist pieces and encouraged greater realism in his friend’s work.

Markham’s personal life was marked by troubled relationships. He married Annie Cox in 1875, but the couple divorced in 1884. In 1887, Markham married Caroline Bailey, who left him after Markham’s mother joined their household. His third marriage, to Anna Catherine Murphy in 1898, proved more successful. Anna, a teacher, served as Markham’s editor and collaborator and encouraged his work on “The Man with the Hoe.”

Although Markham never again experienced the critical acclaim “The Man with the Hoe” won him, he was increasingly prolific after its release, publishing The Man with the Hoe and Other Poems in 1899 and Lincoln and Other Poems in 1901. He became more involved in reform work and wrote muckraking articles on child labor for his friend Bailey Millard, editor of Cosmopolitan. In 1914, he co-authored Children in Bondage.

On March 7, 1940, Markham died at his home on Staten Island, New York, destined, in the eyes of biographer and politician Leonard D. Abbott, to be remembered as the “first real poet of labor.”

Minneapolis Park History

One of the coolest things I’ve ever purchased online was a book of poetry about trees published in 1923 or 1924. Not your ordinary, run-of-the-paper-mill tree poetry book. It was published by Florence Barton Loring as a remembrance from her husband, Charles M. Loring, “The Father of Minneapolis Parks.” (Do not accept imitation “creators” of the Minneapolis park system. More to come on that subject.) Only forty-eight pages with a hard cover. The little book was explained this way in a brief foreword by Mrs. Loring:

In explanation of this booklet’s publication, it may be stated that my beloved husband requested me, when circumstances favored, to compile a collection of verses from which we had derived much pleasure, on the subject of trees, for distribution as a parting souvenir of himself, among those who knew him well, and share his tastes and enthusiasm…It does not require this parting remembrance from Charles M. Loring to keep his memory alive in the hearts of his friends, but that may render it none the less acceptable to the recipients while, to the compiler, it has been not only a means of redeeming a promise, but, also, has provided a labor of love.

Poets included range from Byron, Longfellow and William Cullen Bryant (Bryant Avenue) to Minnesota poets Henrietta Jewett Keith and May Stanley.

The poem excerpt that caught my attention though was a few lines from “Lincoln: The Man of the People,” by Edwin Markham. Loring cites only six lines of the poem including the closing four lines:

And when he fell in whirlwind, he went down
As when a lordly cedar, green with boughs,
Goes down with a great shout upon the hills
A nd leaves a lonesome place against the sky

That was perhaps Mrs. Loring’s tribute to Lincoln as well as her husband, who had been a stalwart of Lincoln’s party. But she left out Markham’s great description of Lincoln including the fabulous line used as a title here:

The color of the ground was in him, the red earth
The smack and tang of elemental things

A reading of Markham’s poem was part of the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. in May, 1922. Markham, who had published the poem in 1901, read it himself. The dedication took place a little more than a month after Charles Loring died at the age of 88.

Florence Barton Loring and Charles Loring, about 1915, likely in Riverside, California where they often spent the winter. (Minnesota Historical Society, por 16225 r3)

I first saw the book at the Minnesota Historical Society Library in St. Paul (there is also a copy in Special Collections at the Hennepin Country Central Library downtown Minneapolis). Because relatively few copies were printed for gifts to Loring’s friends I was surprised to find one for sale online from a Los Angeles rare book dealer. It is one of only a few souvenirs I have collected from my research of Minneapolis parks.

Edwin Markham

Edwin Markham (April 23, 1852 – March 7, 1940 born Charles Edward Anson Markham) was an American poet. From 1923 to 1931 he was Poet Laureate of Oregon.

Edwin Markham was born in Oregon City, Oregon and was the youngest of 6 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. He went by "Charles" until circa 1895, when he preferred "Edwin". He attended an early college in Vacaville, California, where he studied his favorite realm of learning, literature. His mother, however, was opposed to his higher education (at the time, children rarely could afford to leave the farm). In Vacaville, Charles was able to earn enough money to continue his education in Santa Rosa. Markham completed his classical courses in 1873.

By 1898, Edwin married Anna Catherine Murphy as his third wife. 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 London, Carl Sandburg and Amy Lowell.

Five schools in California were named in honor of Edwin Markham, two elementary school in Vacaville, California, named Edwin Markham Elementary School, and in Hayward, California, named Edwin Markham Elementary School, two middle schools in Placerville and San Jose, California, named Edwin Markham Middle School (although the San Jose school has since been renamed Willow Glen Middle School), and Markham Middle School in South Central Los Angeles.

Schools in other states name in his honor include: Edwin Markham Intermediate School 51 in Staten Island, Edwin Markham Elementary in Pasco, Washington, Edwin Markham Elementary School in Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania, and Markham Elementary in Portland, Oregon.

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 two hundred and fifty 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."

As recounted by literary biographer William R. Nash, "'['b]etween 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 - History

I t never took much to get under the skin of Ambrose Bierce. A word, a comment, a misplaced idea &mdash even by old friends &mdash could lead Bierce to angrily sever a relationship. So it happened with the California poet Edwin Markham &mdash although the breach between the two was more or less repaired later in their lives. Markham forgave more easily than Bierce.
Bierce never denied Markham&rsquos accomplishments as a poet, but in terms of politics and philosophy, the two men were far apart, and Markham committed the unforgiveable sin of writing a poem the sentiments of which Bierce profoundly, no, rabidly, disapproved. Markham&rsquos poetic achievements are now mostly overlooked, but in his day he was widely praised, his four books of poetry republished over many editions. At the peak of his fame, Markham read his celebrated poem, “Lincoln a Man of the People,” during the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington in 1922. On the occasion of his eightieth birthday at New York&rsquos Carnegie Hall in 1932, Markham was venerated by President Herbert Hoover along with visitors from thirty-five foreign countries. Schools throughout the nation, five in California alone, were named after Markham.
It is certain that, in his lifetime, Edwin Markham never thought about zombies, yet a fanciful re-reading of some of his poetry might lead to the conclusion that Markham had anticipated the zombie craze, which has infiltrated the popular culture, (some examples below), while Bierce&rsquos own legacy as a writer of horror and the supernatural remains lofty to this day.

T he Markham poem that set Bierce off was “The Man with the Hoe,” [read in its entirety here] originally published by the San Francisco Examiner, Bierce&rsquos own newspaper. How this happened is set forth below, but, first, the events leading up to the contretemps.
Markham, born in Oregon in 1852 &mdash ten years after Bierce&rsquos own birth &mdash had become a school teacher and administrator in Oakland, California, and was part of a Western artistic circle that included Bierce, Hamlin Garland, George Sterling, Joaquin Miller, Jack London, and others. All along, Markham had been writing poetry, publishing his first in 1880, and was encouraged by Bierce who saw himself as the arbiter of all things literary in California.
From the beginning, Markham was in awe of Bierce, saying of the older writer: “His is a composite mind &mdash a blending of Hafiz the Persian, Swift, Poe, Thoreau, with sometimes the gleam of the Galilean.” Markham clipped Bierce&rsquos columns from the newspaper, pasting them into a scrapbook. After he at last met his hero, Markham gushed, “I found Mr. Bierce one of the most gentle and delightful of men. a philosopher with a childlike and winged spirit and heart. a man judicious and fearless, who is clearing the air like a thunderbolt.”

Bierce also admired Markham, particularly his poem, “The Wharf of Dreams.” Bierce&rsquos first major biographer, Carey McWilliams, said the poem was Bierce&rsquos favorite sonnet:

Strange wares are handled on the wharves of sleep:
Shadows of shadows pass, and many a light
Flashes a signal fire across the night
Barges depart whose voiceless steersmen keep
Their way without a star upon the deep.

W hat happened that led such mutual admiration to crumble? Bierce would be described today as a libertarian, the struggles of the poor of little interest to him. But inside Markham&rsquos chest beat the heart of a man with a profound social conscience. Jesse Sidney Goldstein, in an essay published in Modern Language Notes in 1943, put it this way:

Artistically, he [Markham] was ultra-conservative intellectually, he was a firebrand. This dualism he maintained even in the metropolis, where he found it possible, aside from his school duties, to speak at socialistic gatherings on the one hand, and polish his well-turned, delicate verses on the other.

Bierce, of course, had no patience with so-called socialistic notions, although what was considered as socialism then is commonly accepted in America today as the byproduct of a humane, progressive society: Social Security, for example, or Medicare, even food stamps. Bierce&rsquos long-running feud with Jack London, an ardent socialist, was ended only by a mutual admiration for alcoholic spirits. In The Wasp in 1884, Bierce wrote:

A t a New Year&rsquos eve party at the home of Carroll Carrington [another Bierce protégé] on the last day of 1898, Markham read his newly-conceived poem, “The Man with the Hoe,” inspired by Jean-Francois Millet&rsquos painting of a world-wearied laborer standing, hunched, in a barren field. For Markham, the man in the painting symbolized the suffering of the oppressed workingman throughout history.

As he recounted later, Markham said that after he read his poem at the party, there was no applause whatsoever. In fact, there were two minutes of utter silence. Then the literary editor of the San Francisco Examiner, Bailey Millard, who was in the crowd, asked to see the typewritten poem. He read it twice, then announced, “That poem will go down the ages.”
Millard paid Markham forty dollars and published “The Man with the Hoe” as a four-page Sunday supplement to the newspaper on January 15, 1899. The poem caused a sensation at a time when unfettered nineteenth-century laissez faire capitalism prevailed, labor laws were virtually non-existent, and the gulf between rich and poor was even more extreme than it is today. It was also a period in America when poetry was taken seriously and shared.

William Jennings Bryan called it a “sermon addressed to the human heart.” Railroad robber baron Collis P. Huntington asked, “Is America going to turn to Socialism over one poem?”

A mong those who weighed in was Ambrose Bierce. He was furious, calling “The Man with the Hoe,” “seepage from the barnyard.” He saw the verse as incendiary. In the Examiner on January 22, 1899, he wrote:

Bierce would not let it go, particularly as “The Man with the Hoe” continued to gain notoriety. On February 12 in the Examiner, Bierce condemned Markham of holding “peasant philosophies of the workshop and the field.” And in a personal letter to Markham dated March 14, 1899, Bierce accused the poet of:

In the Examiner on June 4, he again denounced Markham as a demagogue, and called him:

In letters to friends, Bierce complained that Markham had taken to cant and snivel, was an unsaddled Pegasus who straddled the flying jackass of the sandlot, who followed the Boer War with an attitude pro-British, anti-Dutch, and semi-decent. He claimed that Markham&rsquos lucid intervals were all too rare. In a letter to the poet George Sterling dated December 16, 1901, Bierce warned Sterling not to follow in Markham&rsquos footsteps:

In a letter to Sterling dated May 6, 1906, Bierce [who by this time had moved to Washington while Markham had moved to New York City] wrote: “I never see Markham, and he has lost his interest to me since he has made a whore of his Muse for the wage of the demagogue. As a poet he was great as a &lsquolabor leader&rsquo and &lsquowalking delegate&rsquo he disgusts.”

H ow did Markham respond? He didn&rsquot. If he felt even slightly apologetic for his blockbuster poem he never expressed it, and he refused to answer his old mentor in the sort of intemperate language that came so easily to Bierce. The harshest word Markham ever said of Bierce was that he was an autocrat, which was more of an observation than a criticism. Instead, Markham himself reflected on his masterpiece this way:

Markham saw his hoeman as:

Bierce became more insular as he aged, but not so Markham, who spoke against injustice and made child labor a personal crusade, lashing out against what he branded as a moral crime in a book entitled Children of Bondage published in 1914.

B ierce never escaped from his nasty practice of writing off former friends. In fact, he did just that to his older brother, Albert. But all was not lost between Bierce and Markham. When a woman named Cora E. Case claimed that Markham had stolen “The Man with the Hoe” from her, Bierce was among the first to go to Markham&rsquos defense. [Joaquin Miller is quoted in The Literary Digest, November 18, 1899, as saying that Chase&rsquos poem was but a little dell, while Markham&rsquos was the whole Yosemite, the thunder, the might, the majesty.] In 1906, Bierce and Markham dined together in Atlantic City, an indication that things between the two had improved. And when a prospectus was published in 1909 for Bierce&rsquos projected Collected Works, Markham graciously contributed a blurb.
In their dispute over the fundamental role of society, who was right: Bierce or Markham? Today, none but the most entrenched conservative would believe that the poor, the sick, the infirm, and the elderly should be allowed to suffer and die without the compassion and support, no matter how modest, of a wealthy, post-industrial nation that has in its collective grasp the ability to alleviate the suffering of its people.
The lives of Bierce and Markham ended in radically different ways. Bierce mysteriously vanished in Mexico in 1914. Markham died from the effects of a stroke at his home on Staten Island in 1940. He was eighty-seven.
Markham proves to be a very good poet. I had read only “The Man with the Hoe” (in high school because Markham was still being taught then), so I wasn&rsquot completely familiar with his other work. It is clean and spare, and most of it rhymes putting him at odds with such “modern” poets as Pound and Eliot. Nevertheless, little of his work is sappy in that ornate, dated Victorian style that even Bierce sometimes fell prey to.

W hat&rsquos this silliness about Markham and zombies? It was unlikely the poet was thinking of zombies when he wrote the following lines in the late nineteenth century. In fact, the concept of zombies wasn&rsquot fully developed then (if at all). But in light of today&rsquos zombie fad, the three poems below might be construed as such. If not, so be it.

Wail of the Wandering Dead

Death, too, is a chimera and betrays,
And yet they promised we should enter rest
Death is as empty as the cup of days,
And bitter milk is in her wintry breast.

There is no worth in any world to come,
Nor any in the world we left behind
And what remains of all our masterdom?
Only a cry out of the crumbling mind.

We played all comers at the old Gray Inn,
But played the King of Players to our cost.
We played Him fair and had no chance to win:
The dice of God were loaded and we lost.

We wander, wander, and the nights come down
With starless darkness and the rush of rains
We drift as phantoms by the songless town,
We drift as litter on the windy lanes.

Hope is the fading vision of the heart,
A mocking spirit throwing up wild hands.
She led us on with music at the start,
To leave us at dead fountains in the sands.

Now all our days are but a cry for sleep,
For we are weary of the petty strife.
Is there not somewhere in the endless deep
A place where we can lose the feel of life?

Where we can be as senseless as the dust
The night wind blows about a dried-up well?
Where there is no more labor, no more lust,
Nor any flesh to feel the Tooth of Hell?

Our feet are ever sliding, and we seem
As old and weary as the pyramids.
Come, God of Ages, and dispel the dream,
Fold the worn hands and close the sinking lids.

There is no new road for the dead to take:
Wild hearts are we among the worlds astray
Wild hearts are we that cannot wholly break,
But linger on though life has gone away.

We are the sons of Misery and Eld:
Come, tender Death, with all your hushing wings,
And let our broken spirits be dispelled
Let dead men sink into the dusk of things.

Softly she came one twilight from the dead,
And in the passionate silence of her look
Was more than man has writ in any book:
And now my thoughts are restless, and a dread
Calls them to the Dim Land discomforted
For down the leafy ways her white feet took,
Lightly the newly broken roses shook
Was it the wind disturbed each rosy head?

God! was it joy or sorrow in her face
That quiet face? Had it grown old or young!
Was it sweet memory or sad that stung
Her voiceless soul to wander from its place?
What do the dead find in the Silence grace?
Or endless grief for which there is no tongue?

I watch afar the moving Mystery,
The wool-shod, formless terror of the sea &mdash
The Mystery whose lightest touch can change
The world God made to phantasy, death-strange.
Under its spell all things grow old and gray
As they will be beyond the Judgment Day.
All voices, at the lifting of some hand.
Seem calling to us from another land.
Is it the still Power of the Sepulcher
That makes all things the wraiths of things that were?

It touches, one by one, the wayside posts,
And they are gone, a line of hurrying ghosts.
It creeps upon the towns with stealthy feet,
And men are phantoms on a phantom street.
It strikes the towers and they are shafts of air,
Above the spectres passing in the square.
The city turns to ashes, spire by spire
The mountains perish with their peaks afire.
The fading city and the falling sky
Are swallowed in one doom without a cry.

It tracks the traveler fleeing with the gale,
Fleeing toward home and friends without avail
It springs upon him and he is a ghost,
A blurred shape moving on a soundless coast.
God! it pursues my love along the stream.
Swirls round her and she is forever dream.
What Hate has touched the universe with eld.
And left me only in a world dispelled?

Biographical Note Return to Top

Edwin Markham lived from 1852-1940. He was born in Oregon City, Oregon to a pioneer family. He lived much of his life as a young adult in California. His first poem was published at age 28 and did not receivewide recognition until the age of 47, when "Man With the Hoe" brought him international fame. In addition to "Man With the Hoe, Markham published a number of bestselling poetry books, and was chosen Oregon Poet Laureate in 1921. Markham lived in the New York area for most of his late adult life.

Content Description Return to Top

The Edwin Markham collection contains his datebook and portfolio miscellany that spans between the years 1880-1967

Use of the Collection Return to Top

Restrictions on Use

Permission to publish, exhibit, broadcast, or quote from materials in the Watzek Library Archives & Special Collections requires written permission of the Head of Archives & Special Collections.

Preferred Citation

The Papers of Edwin Markham, OLPb018MAR, Lewis & Clark College Aubrey Watzek Library Archives & Special Collections, Portland, Oregon.

Administrative Information Return to Top


Arranged in a single series according to original order.

Location of Collection

Custodial History

This collection was assembled sometime in the mid-twentieth century by a friend and fan of Markham's. The collection was acquired by a Portland bookseller and sold to a collector in 1985.

Acquisition Information

In 2005 the collection was donated to Lewis & Clark College.

Processing Note

Processed in 2005. Fragile pages of Markhams date book were removed from their binding and individually encapsulated in mylar. The rest of the collection was re-housed in acid-free containers.

Related Materials

Wagner College of New York holds the bulk of Edwin Markham's personal papers.

Detailed Description of the Collection Return to Top

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

Edwin Markham abbreviated E.M.

Box 1: Portfolio Miscellany, ca. 1880-1985 Return to Top

Container(s): Box 1

This box includes a range of assembled Markham materials, including clippings, published materials, and manuscripts.

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