Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, DOMEDAY BOOK: JOHN CAMPBELL AND CARL EATON, by EDGAR LEE MASTERS



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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

DOMEDAY BOOK: JOHN CAMPBELL AND CARL EATON, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Carl eaton and john campbell both were raised
Last Line: In fairbanks, and the talk is in these words:
Subject(s): Flowers; Kisses; Life; Love


Carl Eaton and John Campbell both were raised
With Elenor Murray in LeRoy. The mother
Of Eaton lived there; but these boys had gone,
Now grown to manhood to Chicago, where
They kept the old days of companionship.
And Mrs. Eaton saw the coroner,
And told him how she saved her son from Elenor,
And broke their troth -- because upon a time
Elenor Murray, though betrothed, to Carl
Went riding with John Campbell, and returned
At two o'clock in the morning, drunk, and stood
Helpless and weary, holding to the gate.
For which she broke the engagement of her son
To Elenor Murray. That was truth to her,
And truth to Merival, for the time, at least.
But this John Campbell and Carl Eaton meet
One evening at a table drinking beer,
And talk about the inquest, Elenor;
Since much is published in the Times to stir
Their memories of her. And John speaks up:
"Well, Carl, now Elenor Murray is no more,
And we are friends so long, I'd like to know
What do you think of her?"

"About the time,
That May before she finished High School, Elenor
Broke loose, ran wild, do you remember, Carl?
She had some trouble in her home, I heard --
She told me so. That Alma Bell affair
Made all the fellows wonder, as you know,
What kind of game she was, if she was game
For me, or you, or anyone. Besides
She had flirting eye, a winning laugh,
And she was eighteen, and a cherry ripe.
This Alma Bell affair and ills at home
Made her spurt up and dart out like a fuse
Which burns to powder wet and powder heated
Until it burns; she burned, you see, and stopped
When principles or something quenched the flame.
I walked with her from school a time or two,
When she was hinting, flirting with her eyes,
I know it now, but what a dunce I was,
As most men when they're twenty."

"Well, now listen!
A little later on an evening,
I see her buggy riding with Roy Green,
That rake, do you remember him, deadbeat,
Half drunkard then, corrupted piece of flesh?
She sat up in defiance by his side,
Her chin stuck out to tell the staring ones:
Go talk or censure to your heart's content.
And people stood and stared to see her pass
And shook their heads and wondered."

"Afterward
I learned from her this was the night at home
Her father and her mother had a quarrel.
Her mother asked her father to buy Elenor
A new dress for commencement, and the father
Was drinking and rebuffed her, so they quarreled.
And rode with him to shame her father, coming
After a long ride in the country home
At ten o'clock or so."

"Well, then I thought,
If she will ride with Roy Green, I go back
To hinting and to flirting eyes and guess
The girl will ride with me, or something more.
So I begin to circle round the girl,
And walk with her, and take her riding too.
She drops Roy Green for me -- what does he care?
He's had enough of her or never cared --
Which is it? there's the secret for a man
As long as women interest him -- who knows
What the precedent fellow was to her?
Roy Green takes to another and another.
He died a year ago, as you'll remember,
What were his secrets, agony? he seemed
A man to me who lived and never thought."

"So Elenor Murray went with me. Oh, well,
She gave me kisses, let me hold her tight,
We used to stop along the country ways
And kiss as long as we had breath to kiss,
And she would gasp and tremble."

"Then, at last
A chum I had began to laugh at me,
For, I was now in love with Elenor Murray.
Don't let her make a fool of you, he said,
No girl who ever traveled with Roy Green
Was not what he desired her, nor, before
The kind of girl he wanted. Don't you know
Roy Green is laughing at you in his sleeve,
And boasts that Elenor Murray was all his?
You see that stung me, for I thought at twenty
Girls do not go so far, that only women
Who sell themselves do so, or now and then
A girl who is betrayed by hopes of marriage.
And here was thrust upon me something devilish:
The fair girl that I loved was wise already,
And fooling me, and drinking in my love
In mockery of me. This was my first
Heart sickness, jaundice of the soul -- dear me!
And how I suffered, lay awake of nights,
And wondered, doubted, hoped, or cursed myself,
And cursed the girl as well. And I would think
Of flirting eyes and hints and how she came
To me before she went with this Roy Green.
And I would hear the older men give hints
About their conquests, speak of ways and signs
From which to tell a woman. On the train
Hear drummers boast and drop apothogems;
The woman who drinks with you will be yours;
Or she who gives herself to you will give
To someone else; you know the kind of talk?
Where wisdom of the sort is averaged up,
But misses finer instances, the beauties
Among the million phases of the thing.
And, so at last I thought the girl was game.
And had been snared, already. Why should I
Be just a cooing dove, why not a hawk?
We were out riding on a summer's night,
A moon and all the rest, the scent of flowers,
And many kisses, as on other times.
At last with this sole object in my mind
Long concentrated, purposed, all at once
I found myself turned violent, with hands
At grapple, twisting, forcing, and this girl
In terror pleading with me. In a moment
When i took time for breath, she said to me:
'I will not ride with you -- you let me out.'
To which I said: 'You'll do what I desire
Or you can walk ten miles back to LeRoy,
And find Roy Green, you like him better, maybe.'
And she said: 'Let me out,' and she jumped out,
And would not ride with me another step,
Though I repented saying, come and ride.
I think it was a mile or more I drove
The horse slowed up to keep her company,
And then I cracked the whip and hurried on,
And left her walking, looked from time to time
To see her in the roadway, then drove on
And reached LeRoy, which Elenor reached that morning
At one or two."

"Well, then what was the riddle?
Was she in love with Roy Green yet, was she
But playing with me, was I crude, left handed,
Had she changed over, was she trying me
To fasten in the hook of matrimony,
Or was she good, and all this corner talk
Of Roy Green just the dirt of dirty minds?
You know the speculations, and you know
How they befuddle one at twenty years.
And sometimes I would grieve for what I did;
Then harden and laugh down my softness. But
At last I wrote a note to Elenor Murray
And sent it with a bouquet -- but no word
Came back from Elenor Murray. Then I thought:
Here is a girl who rides with that Roy Green
And what would he be with her for, I ask?
And if she wants to make a cause of war
Out of an attitude she half provoked,
Why let her -- and moreover let her go.
And so I dropped the matter, since she dropped
My friendship from that night."

"But later on,
Two years ago, when she came back to town
From somewhere, I don't know, gone many months,
Grown prettier, more desirable, I sent
Some roses to her in a tender mood
As if to say: We're grown up since that night,
Have you forgotten it, as I remember
How womanly you were, have grown to be?
She wrote me just a little note of thanks,
And what is strange that very day I learned
About your interest in her, learned besides
It prospered for some months before. I turned
My heart away for good, as a man might
Who plunges and beholds the woman smile
And take another's arm and walk away."
"So, that's your story, is it?" said Carl Eaton.
"Well, I had married her except for you!
That bunch of roses spoiled the girl for me.
You had Roy Green, dog-fennel, I had roses,
And I am glad you sent them, otherwise
I might have married her, to find at last
A wife just like her mother is, myself
Living her father's life, for something missed
Or hated in me -- not the want of money.
She liked me as the banker's son, be sure,
And let me go unwillingly."

"But listen:
I called on her the night you sent the roses,
And there she had them on the center table,
And twinkled with her eyes, and spoke of them,
And said, I can remember it, you sent
Such lovely roses to her, you and she
Had been good friends for years -- and now it seems
You were not friends -- I didn't know it then.
But think about it, John! What was this woman?
It's clear her fate, found dead there by the river,
Is just the outward mirror of herself,
And had to be. There's not a thing in life
That is not first enacted in the heart.
Our fate is the reflection of the life
Which goes on in the heart. That girl was doomed,
Lived in her heart a life that found a birth,
Grew up, committed matricide at last,
Not that my love had saved her. But explain
Why would she over-stress the roses, give
Me understandings foreign to the truth?
For truth to tell, we were affianced then,
There were your roses! But above it all
Something she said pricked like a rose's thorn,
Something that grew to thought she cherished you,
Kept memories sweet of you. If that were true,
What was the past? What was I after all?
A second choice, as if I bought a car,
But thought about a car I wanted more.
So I retired that night in serious thought."

"Yet if you'll credit me, I had not heard
About this Alma Bell affair, or heard
About her riding through the public streets
With this Roy Green. I think I was away,
I never heard it anyway, I know
Until my mother told me, and she told me
Next morning after I had found your roses.
I hadn't told my mother, nor a soul
Before, that time that we two were engaged --
I didn't tell her then -- I merely asked
Would Elenor Murray please you as a daughter?
You should have seen my mother -- how she gasped,
And gestured losing breath, to say at last:
'Why, Carl, my boy, what are you thinking of?
You have not promised marriage to that girl?
Now tell me, have you?' Then I lied to her;
And laughed a little, answered no, and asked,
'What do you know about her?'"

"Here's a joke,
With terror in it, John, if you have told
The truth to me -- my mother tells me there
That on a time John Campbell -- that is you,
And Elenor Murray rode into the country,
And that at two o'clock, or so, the girl
Is seen beside the gate post holding on,
And reeling up the side-walk to her door.
The girl was tired, if you have told the truth.
My mother warms up to this scoundrel Green,
And tops the matter off with Alma Bell.
And all the love I had for Elenor Murray
Sours in my heart. And then I tell my mother
The truth -- of our engagement -- promise her
To break it off. I did so on that day.
Got back the solitaire -- but Elenor
Hung to me, asked my reasons, kept the ring
Until I wrote so sternly she gave up
Her hope and me."

"But worst of all, John Campbell --
If this be worst -- this early episode
So nipped my leaves and browned and curled them up
To whisper sharply with their bitter edges,
No one has seen a bridal wreath in me;
Nor have I ever known a woman since
That some analysis did not blow cool
A rising admiration."

"Now to think
This girl lies dead, and while we drink a beer
You tell me that the story is a lie,
The girl was good, walked ten miles through the dark
To save her honor from a ruffian --
That's what you were, as you confess it now.
And if she did that, what is all this talk
Of such a rat as Green, of Alma Bell? --
It isn't true."

"The only truth is this:
I took a lasting poison from a lie,
Which built the very cells of me to resist
The thought of marriage -- poison which remains.
I wonder should I tell the coroner?
No good in that -- you might as well describe
A cancer to prevent the malady
In people yet to be. Let's have a beer.
John Campbell said: I learned from Elenor Murray
The kind of woman I should take to wife,
I married just the woman made for me."

"If you can say so on your death bed, John,
Then Elenor Murray did one man a good,
Whatever ill she did to other men.
See, I keep rapping for that waiter -- I
Would like another beer, and so would you."

So now it's clear the story is not true
Which Mrs. Eaton told the coroner.
And when the coroner told the jurymen
What Mrs. Eaton told him, Winthrop Marion
Skilled in the work of running down a tale
Said: "I can look up Eaton, Campbell too,
And verify or contradict this thing.
We have departed far afield in this,
It has no bearing on the cause of death.
But none of us have liked to see, the girl's
Good name, integrity of spirit lie
In shadow by this story." Merival
Was glad to have these two men interviewed
By Winthrop Marion; so he found them, talked,
And brought their stories back, as told above
Which made the soul of Elenor Murray clear. . . .

Paul Roberts was a man of sixty years,
Who lived and ran a magazine at LeRoy.
The Dawn he called it; financed by a fund
Left Roberts by a millionaire, who believed
The fund would widen knowledge through the use
Of Roberts, student of the Eastern wisdom.
This Roberts loathed the war, but kept his peace
Because the law compelled it. Took this time
To fight the Christian faith, and show the age
Submerged in Christian ethics, weak and false.
He knew this Elenor Murray from a child,
And knew her rearing, schooling, knew the air
She breathed in at LeRoy. And in The Dawn
Printed this essay: --

"We have seen," he writes,
"Astonishing revealments, inventories
Taken of souls, all coming from the death
Of Elenor Murray, and the inquest held
To ascertain her death. Perhaps fantastic
This thing may be, but scarcely more fantastic
Than rubbing amber, watching frogs' legs twitch,
From which the light of cities came, the power
That hauls the coaches over mountain tops.
We would do well to laugh at nothing, watch
With interested eye the capering souls
Too moved to walk straight. If a wire grounds
And interpenetrates the granite blocks
With viewless fire, horses shod with steel,
Walking along the granite blocks will leap
Like mad things in the air. Well, so we leap
Before we know the cause. Let sound minds laugh.

First you agree no man has looked on God;
And I contend the souls who found God, told
Too little of their triumph. But I hold
Man shall find God and know, shall see at last
What man's soul is, and where it tends, the use
It was made for. And after that? Forever
There's progress while there's life, all devolution
Returns to progress.

As to worship, God
They had their amber days, days of frogs' legs.
And yet before I trace the Christian growth
From seed to blossom, let me prophesy:
The light upon the lotus blossom pauses,
Has paused these centuries and waits to move
Westward and mingle with the light that shines
Upon the Occident. What did Christ do
But carry the Hebraic thrift and prudence
Of matter and of spirit, half-corrupted
By wisdom of the market to these races
That crowd in Europe, in the Western World?
Now you have seen such things as chemistry,
And mongering in steel, the use of fire
Made perfect in swift wheels, and swifter wings,
Until the realm of matter seems subdued,
Thought with her foot upon the dragon's head,
And using him to serve. This western world
Massing its powers these centuries to bring
Comfort and happiness and length of days,
And pushing commerce, trade to pile up gold,
Knows not its soul as yet, nor God. But here
I prophesy: Suppose the Hindu lore,
Which has gone farther with the soul of man
Than we have gone with business, has card cased
The soul's addresses, introduced a system
In the soul's business, just suppose this lore
And great perfection in things spiritual
Should by some process wed the great perfection
Of this our western world, and we should have
Mastery of spirit and of matter, too?
Might not that progress start as one result
Of this great war?

Let's see from whence we came.
I take the Hebrew faith, the very frog legs
Of our theology -- no use to say
It has no place with us. Your ministers
Preach from the Pentateuch, its decalogue
Is all our ethic nearly; and our life
Is suckled by the Hebrews; don't the Jews
Control our business, while our business rules
Our spirits far too much?

Now let us see
What food our spirits feed on. Palestine
Is just a little country, fights for life
Against a greater prowess, skill in arms.
So as the will does not give up, but hopes
For vengeance and for wiping out of wrongs
The Jews conceive a God who will dry up
His people's tears and let them laugh again!
Hence in Jehovah's mouth they put these words:
My word shall stand forever, you shall eat
The riches of the Gentiles, suck their milk.
Your ploughman shall the alien be, the stranger
Shall feed your flock, and I will make you fat
With milk and honey. I will give you power,
Dominion, leadership, glory forever.
My wrath is on all nations to avenge
Israel's sorrow and humiliation.
My sword is bathed in heaven, filled with blood
To come upon Idumea, to stretch out
Upon it stones of emptiness, confusion.
Her fortresses shall be the habitation
Of dragons and a court for owls. I smite
The proud Assyrian and make them dead.
In fury, and in anger do I tread
On Zion's enemies, their worm shall die not,
Nor shall their fire be quenched. I shall stir up
Jealousy like a man of war, put on
The garments of my vengeance, and repay
To adversaries fury. For my word
Shall stand to preach good tidings to the meek,
And liberty to captives, and to chains
The opening of prisons.

Don't you see
Our western culture in such words as these?
Your proselytes, and business man, reformer
Nourished upon them, using them in life?
But then you say Christ came with final truth,
And put away Jehovah. Let us see.
What shall become of those who turn from Christ,
Not that their souls failed, only that they turned,
Did not believe, accept, found in him little
To live by, grow by? This is what Christ said:
Ye vipers in the last day ye shall see
The sun turned dark, the moon made blood. Behold!
I come in clouds of glory and of power
To judge the quick and judge the dead. Mine own
Shall enter into blessedness. But to those
Evil who scorned me, I shall say, depart
Accursed into everlasting fire.
And quick the gates of heaven shall be shut,
And I shall reign in heaven with mine own
And let my fire of wrath consume the world.

But then you say, what of his love and doctrine?
Not the old decalogue by him renewed,
But new wine to the Jews, if not in the world
Unknown before. Look close and you shall see
A book of double entries, balanced columns,
Business in matters spiritual, prudential
Rules for life's conduct. Yes, be merciful
But to obtain your mercy; yes, forgive
That you may be forgiven; honor your parents
That your days may be long. Blest are the meek
For they shall inherit the earth. Rejoice, for great
Is your reward in heaven if they say
All manner of evil of you, persecute you.
Do you not see the rule of compensation
Shot through it all? And if you love your neighbor,
And all men do so, then you have the state
Composed to such a level of peace, no man
Need fear the breaker in, unless you keep
This mood of love for preaching, for a rule
While business in the Occident goes on
Under Jehovah's Hebrew manual.
What is it all? The meek inherit the earth
For being meek; you turn the other cheek
And fill your enemy with shame to strike
A cheek that does not harden to return
The blow received. But too much in our life
The cheek is turned, the hand not made a fist,
But opened out to pick a pocket with,
While the other cheek is turned. Now, at the last
Has not this war put by resist not evil?
Which was the way of Jesus to the end,
Even to buffetings and the crown of thorns;
Even the cross and death? -- we put it by:
We would not let protagonists thereof
So much as hint the doctrine, which is to say,
Though it be written over Jesus' life,
And be his spirit's essence, we see through
The fallacy of that preachment, cannot live
In this world by it.

Well, let me be plain.
Races like men find truth in living life,
Find thereby what is food and what is poison.
These are the phylogenetics spiritual.
But meanwhile there's the light upon the lotus
Which waits to mingle with the light that shines
Upon the Occident, take Jesus' light
Where it is bright enough to mix with it
And show no duller splendor?

I look back
Upon the Jew and Jesus, on the Thora
The gospel, dogmatism, poetry,
The Messianic hope and will and grace,
Jesus the Son of God, and one with God.
The outer theocracy, the Kingdom of God within you,
St. Paul with metaphysics, St. Augustine
Babbling of sin in Cicero's rhetoric,
The popes with their intrigues and millions slain
O ghastly waste, if not O ghastly failure,
Beside which all the tragedies of time
To set up doctrines, rulerships, and say:
Are not a finger scratched. O monstrous hate
Born of enfolding love! O martyrdom
Of our poor world for ages, incurable madness
Bred in the blood, and mixed in the forms of thought,
Still maddening, maiming, crucifying, killing
The fast appearing sons of men. Go ask
What man you will who has lived up to forty
And see if you find not the Christian creed
Has not in some way gyved his life and bolted
Body or spirit to a wall, to make
The man live not by nature, but a doctrine
Evolved from thought that disregards man's life.
But oh this hunger of the mind for answers
And hunger of the heart for life, the heart
Thrown to the dogs of thought. What shall we do?
I see a way, have hope.

The blessed Lord
Says, ye deluded by unwisdom say:
This day is won, this purpose gained, this wealth
Made mine, to-morrow safe -- behold
My enemy is slain, I am well-born --
O ye deluded ones, slaves of desire,
Self-satisfied and stubborn, filled with pride,
Power, lust and wrath -- haters of me, the gate
Of hell is triple, bitter is the womb
In which ye sink deluded, birth on birth,
These not renouncing. But O soul attend,
Yield not to impotence, shake off your fears,
Be steadfast, balanced, free from hate and anger,
Balanced in pleasure and pain, and active,
Yet disregarding action's fruits -- be friendly,
Compassionate, forgiving, self-controlled,
Resolute, not shrinking from the world,
But mixing in its toils as fate may say;
Pure, expert, passionless, desire in leash,
Renouncing good and evil, to friend and foe,
In fame and ignominy destitute
Of that attachment which disturbs the vision
And labor of the soul. By these to fix
Eyes undistracted on me, the supreme
And Sole Reality. And O remember
Thou soul, thou shalt not sin who workest through
Thy Karma as its nature may command.
Strive with thy sin and it shall make the muscles,
And strength to take thee to another height.
But cleave to the practice of thy soul forever,
Also to wisdom better still than practice,
To meditation, better still than wisdom,
To renunciation, better than meditation,
Beholding Me in all things, in all things
Me who would have you peace of soul attain,
And soul's perfection.

Well, I say here lies
Profounder truth and purer than the words
That Jesus spoke. Let's take forgiveness:
Forgive your enemies, he said, and bless
Them even that hate you. What did Jesus do?
Did he forgive the thief upon the cross,
Who railed at him? He did forgive the hands
Who crucified him, but he had a reason:
They knew not what they did; well, as for that
Who knows the thing he does? Did he forgive
Judas Iscariot? Did he forgive
Poor Peter by specific words? You see
In instances like these the idealist,
Passionate and inexorable who sets up
His soul against the world, but do you see
The esoteric wisdom which takes note
Of the soul's health, just for the sake of health,
And leaves the outward recompense alone?

Yes, what has Jesus done but make a realm
Of outward law and force to strain and bind
The sons of men to this thing and to that,
Bring the fanatic and the dogmatist
In every neighborhood in America.
And radical with axes after trees,
And clergymen with curses on the fig trees?
And even bring this Kaiser and his dream
Of God's will in him to destroy his foes,
And launch the war therefor, to make his realm
And Christian culture paramount in time.

When all the while 'tis clear life does not yield
Proof positive of exoteric things.
Why the great truth of life is this, I think:
The soul has freedom to create its world
Of beauty, truth, to make the world as truth
Or beauty, build philosophies, religions,
And live by them, through them. It does not matter
Whether they're true, the significant thing is this:
The soul has freedom to create, to take
The void of unintelligible air, or thought
The world at large, and of it make the food,
Impulse and meaning for its life. I say
Life is for nothing else, truth is not ours;
That only ours which we create, by which
We live and grow, and so we come again
By this path of my own to India.

What shall we do, you ask, if business dies,
If the western world, the world for socialism
Lops off its leaves and branches, and the sap
Is thrown back in the trunk unused, or if
This light upon the lotus quiets us
And makes us mind entirely? Well, I say,
Men have not lived, enjoyed enough before.
Our strength has gone to get the means for strength.
We roll the rock of business up, and see
The rock roll down, and roll it up again.
And if the new day does not give us work
In finding what our minds are, how to use them,

And how to live more beautifully, I miss
A guess I often make.

But now to close:
Only the blind have failed to see how truly
This Elenor Murray worked her Karma out.
And how she put forth strength to cure her weakness,
And went her vital way, and toiled and died.
Peace to all worlds, and peace to Elenor Murray.

The coroner had heard that Elenor Murray
Once crossed the Arctic Circle. What of that?
She traveled, it was proved. What happened there?
What hunter after secrets could find out?
But on a day the name of Elenor Murray
Is handled by two men who sit and talk
In Fairbanks, and the talk is in these words:





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