This I saw with my own eyes:
A cliff-swallow
Made her nest in a hole of the high clay-bank
There near Miller’s Ford.
But no sooner were the young hatched
Than a snake crawled up to the nest
To devour the brood.
Then the mother swallow with swift flutterings
And shrill cries
Fought at the snake,
Blinding him with the beat of her wings,
Until he, wriggling and rearing his head,
Fell backward down the bank
Into Spoon River and was drowned.
Scarcely an hour passed
Until a shrike
Impaled the mother swallow on a thorn.
As for myself I overcame my lower nature
Only to be destroyed by my brother’s ambition.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Edgar Lee Masters's poem Thomas Ross, Jr.


  1. Larry says:

    I don’t think he’s talking about inevitability, but the different natures of life’s struggles and that they are intertwined together.

  2. Monzales says:

    No one has commented on this poem yet so I thought I would. I found a copy of Spoon River Anthology in my school library by accident. And this page was marked.

    I think all Ross is saying is that if you were to look at your environment, city or country, every event causes another event or leads to another event naturally even though the corresponding event might not have anything to do with it. I start a business and it becomes quite lucrative. It’s only natural that one day, someone move in to run me out or buy my property. Sure I can fight it off but It all ends somewhere. And it might not always be out of competition. But your neighbor also has to get his, and your brother on the left always has to get his. “I ovecame my lower nature only to be destroyed by my brother’s ambition.”

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