Sexsmith the Dentist
Do you think that odes and sermons,
And ringing of church bells,
And the blood of old men and young men,
Martyred for the truth they saw
With eyes made bright by faith in God,
Accomplished the world’s great reformations?
Do you think that the Battle Hymn of the Republic
Would have been heard if the chattel slave
Had crowned the dominant dollar,
In spite of Whitney’s cotton gin,
And steam and rolling mills and iron
And telegraphs and white free labor?
Do you think that Daisy Fraser
Had been put out and driven out
If the canning works had never needed
Her little house and lot?
Or do you think the poker room
of Jonnie Taylor, or Burchard’s bar
Had been closed up if the money lost
And spent for beer had not been turned,
By closing them, to Thomas Rhodes
For larger sales of shoes and blankets,
And children’s cloaks and gold-oak cradles?
Why, a moral truth is a hollow truth
Which must be propped with gold.
by Edgar Lee Masters
from Spoon River Anthology
Collier Books 1962