Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, DOMESDAY BOOK: FINDING OF THE BODY, by EDGAR LEE MASTERS



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DOMESDAY BOOK: FINDING OF THE BODY, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Elenor murray, daughter of henry murray
Last Line: And know her better, knowing merival.
Subject(s): Bodies; Death; Fate; Hunting; Life; Dead, The; Destiny; Hunters


Elenor Murray, daughter of Henry Murray,
The druggist at LeRoy, a village near
The shadow of Starved Rock, this Elenor
But recently returned from France, a heart
Who gave her service in the world at war,
Was found along the river's shore, a mile
Above Starved Rock, on August 7th, the day
Year 1679, LaSalle set sail
For Michilmackinac to reach Green Bay
In the Griffin, in the winter snow and sleet,
Reaching "Lone Cliff," Starved Rock its later name,
Also La Vantum, village of the tribe
Called Illini.

This may be taken to speak
The symbol of her life and fate. For first
This Elenor Murray comes into this life,
And lives her youth where the Rock's shadow falls,
As if to say her life should starve and lie
Beneath a shadow, wandering in the world,
As Cavalier LaSalle did, born at Rouen,
Shot down on Trinity River, Texas. She
Searches for life and conquest of herself
With the same sleepless spirit of LaSalle;
And comes back to the shadow of the Rock,
And dies beneath its shadow. Cause of death?
Was she like Sieur LaSalle shot down, or choked,
Struck, poisoned? Let the coroner decide.
Who, hearing of the matter, takes the body
And brings it to LeRoy, is taking proofs;
Lets doctors cut the body, probe and peer
To find the cause of death.

And so this morning
Of August 7th, as a hunter walks --
Looking for rabbits maybe, aimless hunting --
Over the meadow where the Illini's
La Vantum stood two hundred years before,
Gun over arm in readiness for game,
Sees some two hundred paces to the south
Bright colors, red and blue; thinks off the bat
A human body lies there, hurries on
And finds the girl's dead body, hatless head,
The hat some paces off, as if she fell
In such way that the hat dashed off. Her arms
Lying outstretched, the body half on side,
The face upturned to heaven, open eyes
That might have seen Starved Rock until the eyes
Sank down in darkness where no image comes.

This hunter knew the body, bent and looked;
Gave forth a gasp of horror, leaned and touched
The cold hand of the dead: saw in her pocket,
Sticking above the pocket's edge a banner,
And took it forth, saw it was Joan of Arc
In helmet and cuirass, kneeling in prayer.
And in the banner a paper with these words:
"To be brave, and not to flinch." And standing there
This hunter knew that Elenor Murray came
Some days before from France, was visiting
An aunt, named Irma Leese beyond LeRoy.
What was she doing by the river's shore?
He saw no mark upon her, and no blood;
No pistol by her, nothing disarranged
Of hair or clothing, showing struggle -- nothing
To indicate the death she met. Who saw her
Before or when she died? How long had death
Been on her eyes? Some hours, or over-night.

The hunter touched her hand, already stiff;
And saw the dew upon her hair and brow,
And a blue deadness in her eyes, like pebbles.
The lips were black, and bottle flies had come
To feed upon her tongue. 'Tis ten o'clock,
The coolness of the August night unchanged
By this spent sun of August. And the moon
Lies dead and wasted there beyond Starved Rock.
The moon was beautiful last night! To walk
Beside the river under the August moon
Took Elenor Murray's fancy, as he thinks.
Then thinking of the aunt of Elenor Murray,
Who should be notified, the hunter runs
To tell the aunt -- but there's the coroner --
Is there not law the coroner should know?
Should not the body lie, as it was found,
Until the coroner takes charge of it?
Should not he stand on guard? And so he runs,
And from a farmer's house by telephone
Sends word to Coroner Merival. Then returns
And guards the body.

Here is riffle first:
The coroner sat with his traveling bags,
Was closing up his desk, had planned a trip
With boon companions, they were with him there;
The auto waited at the door to take them
To catch the train for northern Michigan.
He closed the desk and they arose to go.
Just then the telephone began to ring,
The hunter at the other end was talking,
And told of Elenor Murray. Merival
Turned to his friends and said: "The jig is up.
Here is an inquest, and of moment too.
I cannot go, but you jump in the car,
And go -- you'll catch the train if you speed up."
They begged him to permit his deputy
To hold the inquest. Merival said "no,"
And waived them off. They left. He got a car
And hurried to the place where Eleanor lay. . . .
Now who was Merival the Coroner?
For we shall know of Elenor through him,
And know her better, knowing Merival.





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