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



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DOMESDAY BOOK: JOHN SCOFIELD, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: You see I worked for arthur fouche, he said
Last Line: Spoke to them in these words: --
Subject(s): Death; Life; Love; Marriage; Dead, The; Weddings; Husbands; Wives


You see I worked for Arthur Fouche, he said,
Until the year before he died; I knew
That worthless son of his who lived with him,
Born when his mother was past bearing time,
So born a weakling. When he came from college
He married soon and came to mother's hearth,
And brought his bride. I heard the old man say:
"A man should have his own place when he marries,
Not settle in the family nest"; I heard
The old man offer him a place, or offer
To buy a place for him. This baby boy
Ran quick to mother, cried and asked to stay.
What happened then? What always happens. Soon
This son began to edge upon the father,
And take the reins a little, Arthur Fouche
Was growing old. And at the last the son
Controlled the bank account and ran the farms;
And Mrs. Fouche gave up her place at table
To daughter-in-law, no longer served or poured
The coffee -- so you see how humble beggars
Become the masters, it is always so.
Now this I know: When this boy came from school
And brought his wife back to the family place,
Old Arthur Fouche had twenty thousand dollars
On saving in the bank, and lots of money
Loaned out on mortgages. But when he died
He owed two thousand dollars at the bank.
Where did the money go? Why, for ten years
When Arthur Fouche and son were partners, I
Saw what went on, and saw this boy buy cattle
When beef was high, sell cattle when it was low,
And lose each year a little. And I saw
This boy buy buggies, autos and machinery,
And lose the money trading. So it was,
This worthless boy had nothing in his head
To run a business, which used up the fortune
Of Arthur Fouche, and strangled Arthur Fouche,
As vines destroy an oak tree. Well, you know
When Arthur Fouche's will was opened up
They found this son was willed most everything --
It's always so. The children who go out,
And make their way get nothing, and the son
Who stays at home by mother gets the swag.
And so this son was willed the family place
And sold it to that chiropractor -- left
For California to remake his life,
And died there, after wasting all his life,
His father's fortune, too.

So, now to show you
How age breaks down a mind and dulls a heart,
I'll tell you what I heard:

This Elenor Murray
Was eighteen, just from High School, and one day
She came to see her grandfather and talked.
The old man always said he loved her most
Of all the grandchildren, and Mrs. Fouche
Told me a dozen times she thought as much
Of Elenor Murray as she did of any
Child of her own. Too bad they didn't show
Their love for her.

I was in and out the room
Where Elenor Murray and her grandfather
Were talking on that day, was planing doors
That swelled and wouldn't close. There was no secret
About this talk of theirs that I could see,
And so I listened.

Elenor began:
"If you can help me, grandpa, just a little
I can go through the university.
I can teach school in summer and can save
A little money by denying self.
If you can let me have two hundred dollars,
When school begins each year, divide it up,
If you prefer, and give me half in the fall,
And half in March, perhaps, I can get through.
And when I finish I shall go to work
And pay you back, I want it as a loan,
And do not ask it for a gift." She sat,
And fingered at her dress while asking him,
And Arthur Fouche looked at her. Come to think
He was toward eighty then. At last he said:
"I wish I could do what you ask me, Elenor,
But there are several things. You see, my child,
I have been through this thing of educating
A family of children, lived my life
In that regard, and so have done my part.
I sent your mother to St. Mary's, sent
The rest of them wherever they desired.
And that's what every father owes his children.
And when he does it, he has done his duty.
I'm sorry that your father cannot help you,
And I would help you, though I've done my duty
By those to whom I owed it; but you see
Your uncle and myself are partners buying
And selling cattle, and the business lags.
We do not profit much, and all the money
I have in bank is needed for this business.
We buy the cattle, and we buy the corn,
Then we run short of corn; and now and then
I have to ask the bank to lend us money,
And give my note. Last month I borrowed money!"
And so the old man talked. And as I looked
I saw the tears run down her cheeks. She sat
And looked as if she didn't believe him.

No,
Why should she? For I do not understand
Why in a case like this, a man who's worth,
Say fifty thousand dollars couldn't spare
Two hundred dollars by the year. Let's see:
He might have bought less corn or cattle, gambled
On lucky sales of cattle -- there's a way
To do a big thing when you have the eyes
To see how big it is; and as for me,
If money must be lost, I'd rather lose it
On Elenor Murray than on cattle. In fact,
That's where the money went, as I have said.
And Elenor Murray went away and earned
Two terms at college, and this worthless son
Ate up and spent the money. All of them,
The son and Arthur Fouche and Elenor Murray
Are gone to dust, now, like the garden things
That sprout up, fall and rot.

At times it seems
All waste to me, no matter what you do
For self or others, unless you think of turnips
Which can't be much to turnips, but are good
For us who raise them. Here's my story then,
Good wishes to you, Coroner Merival.

Coroner Merival heard that Gottlieb Gerald
Knew Elenor Murray and her family life;
And knew her love for music, how she tried
To play on the piano. On an evening
He went with Winthrop Marion to the place, --
Llewellyn George dropped in to hear, as well --
Where Gottlieb Gerald sold pianos -- dreamed,
Read Kant at times, a scholar, but a failure,
His life a waste in business. Gottlieb Gerald
Spoke to them in these words: --





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