George Gray


Being on Facebook constantly makes me reflect in an overly-self aware state about my life is. Hearing from people throughout my life makes me think about what I regret and just how much.  Such a dour view brings me back to a memorable poem by Edgar Lee Masters – “George Gray”.  The whole anthology are tales from the dead, from one town in middle America.  Voices of joy, despair, vibrancy, love, fear, and regret fill the air at the Spoon River Cemetery.  For me, this poem presents a great image of regret – a boat with furled sales at rest in the harbor.  It can help students connect both to a particular voice and perspective and also rich metaphor.

Quick activity:

  1. Quickwrite: Do you have regrets?  Are you the kind of person who has regrets?
  2. Review the definition of a metaphor with students.  It may help to help them just to know that it is a figure of speech (versus literal speech) where a comparison is drawn between two things.  (A simile compares two things using the words “like” or “as”.)  For example, calling a person “lion-hearted” describes them a curious, not as a freak of animal experimentation….
  3. Read the poem together with a focus of understanding the metaphor.  Start at level 1, what is the poem saying?  Who is narrating it? What is their mood and tone? What is the “marble” he speaks of? Move to deeper level questioning: What meaning do you make from the poem? What do you think it is saying – give two – three examples from the text to support your opinion?
  4. How does the text relate to your life?  How does it relate to other texts that you’ve read, movies you’ve seen, or songs you’ve listened to?

Poem, “George Gray” by Edgar Lee Masters

64. George Gray

I HAVE studied many times
The marble which was chiseled for me—
A boat with a furled sail at rest in a harbor.
In truth it pictures not my destination
But my life.
For love was offered me and I shrank from its disillusionment;
Sorrow knocked at my door, but I was afraid;
Ambition called to me, but I dreaded the chances.
Yet all the while I hungered for meaning in my life.
And now I know that we must lift the sail
And catch the winds of destiny
Wherever they drive the boat.
To put meaning in one’s life may end in madness,
But life without meaning is the torture
Of restlessness and vague desire—
It is a boat longing for the sea and yet afraid.

Follow Up:

  1. Have students identify a metaphor for their life – have them sketch a picture of their metaphor. (or do a collage, sculpture, photo essay, etc.)
  2. Design your own Gravestone. Look at some models (see link below).  What shape would you want to demonstrate your life? What words/information would you want on it?
  3. Write a journal entry about your dreams and goals – what do you want to accomplish in your life?  Do you have regrets?  About what?  Have these changed your behavior in the future?




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s