Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, DOMESDAY BOOK: DOMESDAY BOOK, by EDGAR LEE MASTERS



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DOMESDAY BOOK: DOMESDAY BOOK, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Take any life you choose and study it
Last Line: And of her birth: -- . . .
Subject(s): Books; Death; Life; Loss; Soul; Reading; Dead, The


Take any life you choose and study it:
It gladdens, troubles, changes many lives.
The life goes out, how many things result?
Fate drops a stone, and to the utmost shores
The circles spread.

Now, such a book were endless,
If every circle, riffle should be traced
Of any life -- and so of Elenor Murray,
Whose life was humble and whose death was tragic.
And yet behold the riffles spread, the lives
That are affected, and the secrets gained
Of lives she never knew of, as for that.
For even the world could not contain the books
That should be written, if all deeds were traced,
Effects, results, gains, losses, of her life,
And of her death.

Concretely said, in brief,
A man and woman have produced this child;
What was the child's pre-natal circumstance?
How did her birth affect the father, mother?
What did their friends, old women, relatives
Take from the child in feeling, joy or pain?
What of her childhood friends, her days at school,
Her teachers, girlhood sweethearts, lovers later,
When she became a woman? What of these?
And what of those who got effects because
They knew this Elenor Murray?

Then she dies.
Read how the human secrets are exposed
In many lives because she died -- not all
Lives, by her death affected, written here.
The reader may trace out such other riffles
As come to him -- this book must have an end.

Enough is shown to show what could be told
If we should write a world of books. In brief
One feature of the plot elaborates
The closeness of one life, however humble
With every life upon this globe. In truth
I sit here in Chicago, housed and fed,
And think the world secure, at peace, the clock
Just striking three, in Europe striking eight:
And in some province, in some palace, hut,
Some words are spoken, or a fisticuff
Results between two brawlers, and for that
A blue-eyed boy, my grandson, we may say,
Not even yet in seed, but to be born
A half a century hence, is by those words,
That fisticuff, drawn into war in Europe,
Shrieks from a bullet through the groin, and lies
Under the sod of France.

But to return
To Elenor Murray, I have made a book
Called Domesday Book, a census spiritual
Taken of our America, or in part
Taken, not wholly taken, it may be.
For William Merival, the coroner,
Who probed the death of Elenor Murray goes
As far as may be, and beyond his power,
In diagnosis of America,
While finding out the cause of death. In short
Becomes a William the Conqueror that way
In making up a Domesday Book for us. . . .
Of this a little later. But before
We touch upon the Domesday book of old,
We take up Elenor Murray, show her birth;
Then skip all time between and show her death;
Then take up Coroner Merival -- who was he?
Then trace the life of Elenor Murray through
The witnesses at the inquest on the body
Of Elenor Murray; -- also letters written,
And essays written, conversations heard,
But all evoked by Elenor Murray's death.
And by the way trace riffles here and there. . . .
A word now on the Domesday book of old:
Remember not a book of doom, but a book
Of houses; domus, house, so domus book.
And this book of the death of Elenor Murray
Is not a book of doom, though showing too
How fate was woven round her, and the souls
That touched her soul; but is a house book too
Of riches, poverty, and weakness, strength
Of this our country.

If you take St. Luke
You find an angel came to Mary, said:
Hail! thou art highly favored, shalt conceive,
Bring forth a son, a king for David's throne: --
So tracing life before the life was born.
We do the same for Elenor Murray, though
No man or angel said to Elenor's mother:
You have found favor, you are blessed of God,
You shall conceive, bring forth a daughter blest,
And blessing you. Quite otherwise the case,
As being blest or blessing, something like
Perhaps, in that desire, or flame of life,
Which gifts new souls with passion, strength and love. . . .
This is the manner of the girl's conception,
And of her birth: -- . . .





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