Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

John Barleycorn, by Jack London

Part 4 out of 4

Adobe PDF icon
Download John Barleycorn, pdf
File size: 0.4 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

To man, alone among the animals, has been given the awful
privilege of reason. Man, with his brain, can penetrate the
intoxicating show of things and look upon the universe brazen with
indifference toward him and his dreams. He can do this, but it is
not well for him to do it. To live, and live abundantly, to sting
with life, to be alive (which is to be what he is), it is good
that man be life-blinded and sense-struck. What is good is true.
And this is the order of truth, lesser though it be, that man must
know and guide his actions by with unswerving certitude that it is
absolute truth and that in the universe no other order of truth
can obtain. It is good that man should accept at face value the
cheats of sense and snares of flesh and through the fogs of
sentiency pursue the lures and lies of passion. It is good that
he shall see neither shadows nor futilities, nor be appalled by
his lusts and rapacities.

And man does this. Countless men have glimpsed that other and
truer order of truth and recoiled from it. Countless men have
passed through the long sickness and lived to tell of it and
deliberately to forget it to the end of their days. They lived.
They realised life, for life is what they were. They did right.

And now comes John Barleycorn with the curse he lays upon the
imaginative man who is lusty with life and desire to live. John
Barleycorn sends his White Logic, the argent messenger of truth
beyond truth, the antithesis of life, cruel and bleak as
interstellar space, pulseless and frozen as absolute zero,
dazzling with the frost of irrefragable logic and unforgettable
fact. John Barleycorn will not let the dreamer dream, the liver
live. He destroys birth and death, and dissipates to mist the
paradox of being, until his victim cries out, as in "The City of
Dreadful Night": "Our life's a cheat, our death a black abyss."
And the feet of the victim of such dreadful intimacy take hold of
the way of death.


Back to personal experiences and the effects in the past of John
Barleycorn's White Logic on me. On my lovely ranch in the Valley
of the Moon, brain-soaked with many months of alcohol, I am
oppressed by the cosmic sadness that has always been the heritage
of man. In vain do I ask myself why I should be sad. My nights
are warm. My roof does not leak. I have food galore for all the
caprices of appetite. Every creature comfort is mine. In my body
are no aches nor pains. The good old flesh-machine is running
smoothly on. Neither brain nor muscle is overworked. I have
land, money, power, recognition from the world, a consciousness
that I do my meed of good in serving others, a mate whom I love,
children that are of my own fond flesh. I have done, and am
doing, what a good citizen of the world should do. I have built
houses, many houses, and tilled many a hundred acres. And as for
trees, have I not planted a hundred thousand? Everywhere, from any
window of my house, I can gaze forth upon these trees of my
planting, standing valiantly erect and aspiring toward the sun.

My life has indeed fallen in pleasant places. Not a hundred men
in a million have been so lucky as I. Yet, with all this vast
good fortune, am I sad. And I am sad because John Barleycorn is
with me. And John Barleycorn is with me because I was born in
what future ages will call the dark ages before the ages of
rational civilisation. John Barleycorn is with me because in all
the unwitting days of my youth John Barleycorn was accessible,
calling to me and inviting me on every corner and on every street
between the corners. The pseudo-civilisation into which I was
born permitted everywhere licensed shops for the sale of soul-
poison. The system of life was so organised that I (and millions
like me) was lured and drawn and driven to the poison shops.

Wander with me through one mood of the myriad moods of sadness
into which one is plunged by John Barleycorn. I ride out over my
beautiful ranch. Between my legs is a beautiful horse. The air
is wine. The grapes on a score of rolling hills are red with
autumn flame. Across Sonoma Mountain wisps of sea fog are
stealing. The afternoon sun smoulders in the drowsy sky. I have
everything to make me glad I am alive. I am filled with dreams
and mysteries. I am all sun and air and sparkle. I am vitalised,
organic. I move, I have the power of movement, I command movement
of the live thing I bestride. I am possessed with the pomps of
being, and know proud passions and inspirations. I have ten
thousand august connotations. I am a king in the kingdom of
sense, and trample the face of the uncomplaining dust....

And yet, with jaundiced eye I gaze upon all the beauty and wonder
about me, and with jaundiced brain consider the pitiful figure I
cut in this world that endured so long without me and that will
again endure without me. I remember the men who broke their
hearts and their backs over this stubborn soil that now belongs to
me. As if anything imperishable could belong to the perishable!
These men passed. I, too, shall pass. These men toiled, and
cleared, and planted, gazed with aching eyes, while they rested
their labour-stiffened bodies on these same sunrises and sunsets,
at the autumn glory of the grape, and at the fog-wisps stealing
across the mountain. And they are gone. And I know that I, too,
shall some day, and soon, be gone.

Gone? I am going now. In my jaw are cunning artifices of the
dentists which replace the parts of me already gone. Never again
will I have the thumbs of my youth. Old fights and wrestlings
have injured them irreparably. That punch on the head of a man
whose very name is forgotten settled this thumb finally and for
ever. A slip-grip at catch-as-catch-can did for the other. My
lean runner's stomach has passed into the limbo of memory. The
joints of the legs that bear me up are not so adequate as they
once were, when, in wild nights and days of toil and frolic, I
strained and snapped and ruptured them. Never again can I swing
dizzily aloft and trust all the proud quick that is I to a single
rope-clutch in the driving blackness of storm. Never again can I
run with the sled-dogs along the endless miles of Arctic trail.

I am aware that within this disintegrating body which has been
dying since I was born I carry a skeleton, that under the rind of
flesh which is called my face is a bony, noseless death's head.
All of which does not shudder me. To be afraid is to be healthy.
Fear of death makes for life. But the curse of the White Logic is
that it does not make one afraid. The world-sickness of the White
Logic makes one grin jocosely into the face of the Noseless One
and to sneer at all the phantasmagoria of living.

I look about me as I ride and on every hand I see the merciless
and infinite waste of natural selection. The White Logic insists
upon opening the long-closed books, and by paragraph and chapter
states the beauty and wonder I behold in terms of futility and
dust. About me is murmur and hum, and I know it for the gnat-
swarm of the living, piping for a little space its thin plaint of
troubled air.

I return across the ranch. Twilight is on, and the hunting
animals are out. I watch the piteous tragic play of life feeding
on life. Here is no morality. Only in man is morality, and man
created it--a code of action that makes toward living and that is
of the lesser order of truth. Yet all this I knew before, in the
weary days of my long sickness. These were the greater truths
that I so successfully schooled myself to forget; the truths that
were so serious that I refused to take them seriously, and played
with gently, oh! so gently, as sleeping dogs at the back of
consciousness which I did not care to waken. I did but stir them,
and let them lie. I was too wise, too wicked wise, to wake them.
But now White Logic willy-nilly wakes them for me, for White
Logic, most valiant, is unafraid of all the monsters of the
earthly dream.

"Let the doctors of all the schools condemn me, "White Logic
whispers as I ride along. "What of it? I am truth. You know it.
You cannot combat me. They say I make for death. What of it? It
is truth. Life lies in order to live. Life is a perpetual lie-
telling process. Life is a mad dance in the domain of flux,
wherein appearances in mighty tides ebb and flow, chained to the
wheels of moons beyond our ken. Appearances are ghosts. Life is
ghost land, where appearances change, transfuse, permeate each the
other and all the others, that are, that are not, that always
flicker, fade, and pass, only to come again as new appearances, as
other appearances. You are such an appearance, composed of
countless appearances out of the past. All an appearance can know
is mirage. You know mirages of desire. These very mirages are
the unthinkable and incalculable congeries of appearances that
crowd in upon you and form you out of the past, and that sweep you
on into dissemination into other unthinkable and incalculable
congeries of appearances to people the ghost land of the future.
Life is apparitional, and passes. You are an apparition. Through
all the apparitions that preceded you and that compose the parts
of you, you rose gibbering from the evolutionary mire, and
gibbering you will pass on, interfusing, permeating the procession
of apparitions that will succeed you."

And of course it is all unanswerable, and as I ride along through
the evening shadows I sneer at that Great Fetish which Comte
called the world. And I remember what another pessimist of
sentiency has uttered: "Transient are all. They, being born, must
die, and, being dead, are glad to be at rest."

But here through the dusk comes one who is not glad to be at rest.
He is a workman on the ranch, an old man, an immigrant Italian.
He takes his hat off to me in all servility, because, forsooth, I
am to him a lord of life. I am food to him, and shelter, and
existence. He has toiled like a beast all his days, and lived
less comfortably than my horses in their deep-strawed stalls. He
is labour-crippled. He shambles as he walks. One shoulder is
twisted higher than the other. His hands are gnarled claws,
repulsive, horrible. As an apparition he is a pretty miserable
specimen. His brain is as stupid as his body is ugly.

"His brain is so stupid that he does not know he is an
apparition," the White Logic chuckles to me. "He is sense-drunk.
He is the slave of the dream of life. His brain is filled with
superrational sanctions and obsessions. He believes in a
transcendent over-world. He has listened to the vagaries of the
prophets, who have given to him the sumptuous bubble of Paradise.
He feels inarticulate self-affinities, with self-conjured non-
realities. He sees penumbral visions of himself titubating
fantastically through days and nights of space and stars. Beyond
the shadow of any doubt he is convinced that the universe was made
for him, and that it is his destiny to live for ever in the
immaterial and supersensuous realms he and his kind have builded
of the stuff of semblance and deception.

"But you, who have opened the books and who share my awful
confidence--you know him for what he is, brother to you and the
dust, a cosmic joke, a sport of chemistry, a garmented beast that
arose out of the ruck of screaming beastliness by virtue and
accident of two opposable great toes. He is brother as well to
the gorilla and the chimpanzee. He thumps his chest in anger, and
roars and quivers with cataleptic ferocity. He knows monstrous,
atavistic promptings, and he is composed of all manner of shreds
of abysmal and forgotten instincts."

"Yet he dreams he is immortal," I argue feebly. "It is vastly
wonderful for so stupid a clod to bestride the shoulders of time
and ride the eternities."

"Pah!" is the retort. "Would you then shut the books and exchange
places with this thing that is only an appetite and a desire, a
marionette of the belly and the loins?"

"To be stupid is to be happy," I contend.

"Then your ideal of happiness is a jelly-like organism floating in
a tideless, tepid twilight sea, eh?"

Oh, the victim cannot combat John Barleycorn!

"One step removed from the annihilating bliss of Buddha's
Nirvana," the White Logic adds. "Oh well, here's the house.
Cheer up and take a drink. We know, we illuminated, you and I,
all the folly and the farce."

And in my book-walled den, the mausoleum of the thoughts of men, I
take my drink, and other drinks, and roust out the sleeping dogs
from the recesses of my brain and hallo them on over the walls of
prejudice and law and through all the cunning labyrinths of
superstition and belief.

"Drink," says the White Logic. "The Greeks believed that the gods
gave them wine so that they might forget the miserableness of
existence. And remember what Heine said."

Well do I remember that flaming Jew's "With the last breath all is
done: joy, love, sorrow, macaroni, the theatre, lime-trees,
raspberry drops, the power of human relations, gossip, the barking
of dogs, champagne."

"Your clear white light is sickness," I tell the White Logic.
"You lie."

"By telling too strong a truth," he quips back.

"Alas, yes, so topsy-turvy is existence," I acknowledge sadly.

"Ah, well, Liu Ling was wiser than you," the White Logic girds.
"You remember him?"

I nod my head--Liu Ling, a hard drinker, one of the group of
bibulous poets who called themselves the Seven Sages of the Bamboo
Grove and who lived in China many an ancient century ago.

"It was Liu Ling," prompts the White Logic, "who declared that to
a drunken man the affairs of this world appear but as so much
duckweed on a river. Very well. Have another Scotch, and let
semblance and deception become duck-weed on a river."

And while I pour and sip my Scotch, I remember another Chinese
philosopher, Chuang Tzu, who, four centuries before Christ,
challenged this dreamland of the world, saying: "How then do I
know but that the dead repent of having previously clung to life?
Those who dream of the banquet, wake to lamentation and sorrow.
Those who dream of lamentation and sorrow, wake to join the hunt.
While they dream, they do not know that they dream. Some will
even interpret the very dream they are dreaming; and only when
they awake do they know it was a dream.... Fools think they are
awake now, and flatter themselves they know if they are really
princes or peasants. Confucius and you are both dreams; and I who
say you are dreams--I am but a dream myself.

"Once upon a time, I, Chuang Tzu, dreamt I was a butterfly,
fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a
butterfly. I was conscious only of following my fancies as a
butterfly, and was unconscious of my individuality as a man.
Suddenly, I awaked, and there I lay, myself again. Now I do not
know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or
whether I am now a butterfly dreaming I am a man."


"Come," says the White Logic, "and forget these Asian dreamers of
old time. Fill your glass and let us look at the parchments of
the dreamers of yesterday who dreamed their dreams on your own
warm hills."

I pore over the abstract of title of the vineyard called Tokay on
the rancho called Petaluma. It is a sad long list of the names of
men, beginning with Manuel Micheltoreno, one time Mexican
"Governor, Commander-in-Chief, and Inspector of the Department of
the Californias," who deeded ten square leagues of stolen Indian
land to Colonel Don Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo for services
rendered his country and for moneys paid by him for ten years to
his soldiers.

Immediately this musty record of man's land lust assumes the
formidableness of a battle--the quick struggling with the dust.
There are deeds of trust, mortgages, certificates of release,
transfers, judgments, foreclosures, writs of attachment, orders of
sale, tax liens, petitions for letters of administration, and
decrees of distribution. It is like a monster ever unsubdued,
this stubborn land that drowses in this Indian summer weather and
that survives them all, the men who scratched its surface and

Who was this James King of William, so curiously named? The oldest
surviving settler in the Valley of the Moon knows him not. Yet
only sixty years ago he loaned Mariano G. Vallejo eighteen
thousand dollars on security of certain lands including the
vineyard yet to be and to be called Tokay. Whence came Peter
O'Connor, and whither vanished, after writing his little name of a
day on the woodland that was to become a vineyard? Appears Louis
Csomortanyi, a name to conjure with. He lasts through several
pages of this record of the enduring soil.

Comes old American stock, thirsting across the Great American
Desert, mule-backing across the Isthmus, wind-jamming around the
Horn, to write brief and forgotten names where ten thousand
generations of wild Indians are equally forgotten--names like
Halleck, Hastings, Swett, Tait, Denman, Tracy, Grimwood, Carlton,
Temple. There are no names like those to-day in the Valley of the

The names begin to appear fast and furiously, flashing from legal
page to legal page and in a flash vanishing. But ever the
persistent soil remains for others to scrawl themselves across.
Come the names of men of whom I have vaguely heard but whom I have
never known. Kohler and Frohling--who built the great stone
winery on the vineyard called Tokay, but who built upon a hill up
which other vineyardists refused to haul their grapes. So Kohler
and Frohling lost the land; the earthquake of 1906 threw down the
winery; and I now live in its ruins.

La Motte--he broke the soil, planted vines and orchards,
instituted commercial fish culture, built a mansion renowned in
its day, was defeated by the soil, and passed. And my name of a
day appears. On the site of his orchards and vine-yards, of his
proud mansion, of his very fish ponds, I have scrawled myself with
half a hundred thousand eucalyptus trees.

Cooper and Greenlaw--on what is called the Hill Ranch they left
two of their dead, "Little Lillie" and "Little David," who rest
to-day inside a tiny square of hand-hewn palings. Also, Gooper
and Greenlaw in their time cleared the virgin forest from three
fields of forty acres. To-day I have those three fields sown with
Canada peas, and in the spring they shall be ploughed under for
green manure.

Haska--a dim legendary figure of a generation ago, who went back
up the mountain and cleared six acres of brush in the tiny valley
that took his name. He broke the soil, reared stone walls and a
house, and planted apple trees. And already the site of the house
is undiscoverable, the location of the stone walls may be deduced
from the configuration of the landscape, and I am renewing the
battle, putting in angora goats to browse away the brush that has
overrun Haska's clearing and choked Haska's apple trees to death.
So I, too, scratch the land with my brief endeavour and flash my
name across a page of legal script ere I pass and the page grows

"Dreamers and ghosts," the White Logic chuckles.

"But surely the striving was not altogether vain," I contend.

"It was based on illusion and is a lie."

"A vital lie," I retort.

"And pray what is a vital lie but a lie?" the White Logic
challenges. "Come. Fill your glass and let us examine these
vital liars who crowd your bookshelves. Let us dabble in William
James a bit."

"A man of health," I say. "From him we may expect no
philosopher's stone, but at least we will find a few robust tonic
things to which to tie."

"Rationality gelded to sentiment," the White Logic grins. "At the
end of all his thinking he still clung to the sentiment of
immortality. Facts transmuted in the alembic of hope into terms
of faith. The ripest fruit of reason the stultification of
reason. From the topmost peak of reason James teaches to cease
reasoning and to have faith that all is well and will be well--the
old, oh, ancient old, acrobatic flip of the metaphysicians whereby
they reasoned reason quite away in order to escape the pessimism
consequent upon the grim and honest exercise of reason.

"Is this flesh of yours you? Or is it an extraneous something
possessed by you? Your body--what is it? A machine for converting
stimuli into reactions. Stimuli and reactions are remembered.
They constitute experience. Then you are in your consciousness
these experiences. You are at any moment what you are thinking at
that moment. Your I is both subject and object; it predicates
things of itself and is the things predicated. The thinker is the
thought, the knower is what is known, the possessor is the things

"After all, as you know well, man is a flux of states of
consciousness, a flow of passing thoughts, each thought of self
another self, a myriad thoughts, a myriad selves, a continual
becoming but never being, a will-of-the-wisp flitting of ghosts in
ghostland. But this, man will not accept of himself. He refuses
to accept his own passing. He will not pass. He will live again
if he has to die to do it.

"He shuffles atoms and jets of light, remotest nebulae, drips of
water, prick-points of sensation, slime-oozings and cosmic bulks,
all mixed with pearls of faith, love of woman, imagined dignities,
frightened surmises, and pompous arrogances, and of the stuff
builds himself an immortality to startle the heavens and baffle
the immensities. He squirms on his dunghill, and like a child
lost in the dark among goblins, calls to the gods that he is their
younger brother, a prisoner of the quick that is destined to be as
free as they--monuments of egotism reared by the epiphenomena;
dreams and the dust of dreams, that vanish when the dreamer
vanishes and are no more when he is not.

"It is nothing new, these vital lies men tell themselves,
muttering and mumbling them like charms and incantations against
the powers of Night. The voodoos and medicine men and the devil-
devil doctors were the fathers of metaphysics. Night and the
Noseless One were ogres that beset the way of light and life. And
the metaphysicians would win by if they had to tell lies to do it.
They were vexed by the brazen law of the Ecclesiast that men die
like the beasts of the field and their end is the same. Their
creeds were their schemes, their religions their nostrums, their
philosophies their devices, by which they half-believed they would
outwit the Noseless One and the Night.

"Bog-lights, vapours of mysticism, psychic overtones, soul orgies,
wailings among the shadows, weird gnosticisms, veils and tissues
of words, gibbering subjectivisms, gropings and maunderings,
ontological fantasies, pan-psychic hallucinations--this is the
stuff, the phantasms of hope, that fills your bookshelves. Look
at them, all the sad wraiths of sad mad men and passionate rebels--
your Schopenhauers, your Strindbergs, your Tolstois and

"Come. Your glass is empty. Fill and forget."

I obey, for my brain is now well a-crawl with the maggots of
alcohol, and as I drink to the sad thinkers on my shelves I quote
Richard Hovey:

"Abstain not! Life and Love like night and day
Offer themselves to us on their own terms,
Not ours. Accept their bounty while ye may,
Before we be accepted by the worms,"

"I will cap you," cries the White Logic.

"No," I answer, while the maggots madden me. "I know you for what
you are, and I am unafraid. Under your mask of hedonism you are
yourself the Noseless One and your way leads to the Night.
Hedonism has no meaning. It, too, is a lie, at best the coward's
smug compromise "

"Now will I cap you!" the White Logic breaks in.

"But if you would not this poor life fulfil,
Lo, you are free to end it when you will,
Without the fear of waking after death."

And I laugh my defiance; for now, and for the moment, I know the
White Logic to be the arch-impostor of them all, whispering his
whispers of death. And he is guilty of his own unmasking, with
his own genial chemistry turning the tables on himself, with his
own maggots biting alive the old illusions, resurrecting and
making to sound again the old voice from beyond of my youth,
telling me again that still are mine the possibilities and powers
which life and the books had taught me did not exist.

And the dinner gong sounds to the reversed bottom of my glass.
Jeering at the White Logic, I go out to join my guests at table,
and with assumed seriousness to discuss the current magazines and
the silly doings of the world's day, whipping every trick and ruse
of controversy through all the paces of paradox and persiflage.
And, when the whim changes, it is most easy and delightfully
disconcerting to play with the respectable and cowardly bourgeois
fetishes and to laugh and epigram at the flitting god-ghosts and
the debaucheries and follies of wisdom.

The clown's the thing! The clown! If one must be a philosopher,
let him be Aristophanes. And no one at the table thinks I am
jingled. I am in fine fettle, that is all. I tire of the labour
of thinking, and, when the table is finished, start practical
jokes and set all playing at games, which we carry on with bucolic

And when the evening is over and good-night said, I go back
through my book-walled den to my sleeping porch and to myself and
to the White Logic which, undefeated, has never left me. And as I
fall to fuddled sleep I hear youth crying, as Harry Kemp heard it:

"I heard Youth calling in the night:
'Gone is my former world-delight;
For there is naught my feet may stay;
The morn suffuses into day,
It dare not stand a moment still
But must the world with light fulfil.
More evanescent than the rose
My sudden rainbow comes and goes,
Plunging bright ends across the sky--
Yea, I am Youth because I die!'"


The foregoing is a sample roaming with the White Logic through the
dusk of my soul.

To the best of my power I have striven to give the reader a
glimpse of a man's secret dwelling when it is shared with John
Barleycorn. And the reader must remember that this mood, which he
has read in a quarter of an hour, is but one mood of the myriad
moods of John Barleycorn, and that the procession of such moods
may well last the clock around through many a day and week and

My alcoholic reminiscences draw to a close. I can say, as any
strong, chesty drinker can say, that all that leaves me alive to-
day on the planet is my unmerited luck--the luck of chest, and
shoulders, and constitution. I dare to say that a not large
percentage of youths, in the formative stage of fifteen to
seventeen, could have survived the stress of heavy drinking that I
survived between my fifteenth and seventeenth years; that a not
large percentage of men could have punished the alcohol I have
punished in my manhood years and lived to tell the tale. I
survived, through no personal virtue, but because I did not have
the chemistry of a dipsomaniac and because I possessed an organism
unusually resistant to the ravages of John Barleycorn. And,
surviving, I have watched the others die, not so lucky, down all
the long sad road.

It was my unmitigated and absolute good fortune, good luck,
chance, call it what you will, that brought me through the fires
of John Barleycorn. My life, my career, my joy in living, have
not been destroyed. They have been scorched, it is true; like the
survivors of forlorn hopes, they have by unthinkably miraculous
ways come through the fight to marvel at the tally of the slain.

And like such a survivor of old red war who cries out, "Let there
be no more war!" so I cry out, "Let there be no more poison-
fighting by our youths!" The way to stop war is to stop it. The
way to stop drinking is to stop it. The way China stopped the
general use of opium was by stopping the cultivation and
importation of opium. The philosophers, priests, and doctors of
China could have preached themselves breathless against opium for
a thousand years, and the use of opium, so long as opium was ever
accessible and obtainable, would have continued unabated. We are
so made, that is all.

We have with great success made a practice of not leaving arsenic
and strychnine, and typhoid and tuberculosis germs lying around
for our children to be destroyed by. Treat John Barleycorn the
same way. Stop him. Don't let him lie around, licensed and
legal, to pounce upon our youth. Not of alcoholics nor for
alcoholics do I write, but for our youths, for those who possess
no more than the adventure-stings and the genial predispositions,
the social man-impulses, which are twisted all awry by our
barbarian civilisation which feeds them poison on all the corners.
It is the healthy, normal boys, now born or being born, for whom I

It was for this reason, more than any other, and more ardently
than any other, that I rode down into the Valley of the Moon, all
a-jingle, and voted for equal suffrage. I voted that women might
vote, because I knew that they, the wives and mothers of the race,
would vote John Barleycorn out of existence and back into the
historical limbo of our vanished customs of savagery. If I thus
seem to cry out as one hurt, please remember that I have been
sorely bruised and that I do dislike the thought that any son or
daughter of mine or yours should be similarly bruised.

The women are the true conservators of the race. The men are the
wastrels, the adventure-lovers and gamblers, and in the end it is
by their women that they are saved. About man's first experiment
in chemistry was the making of alcohol, and down all the
generations to this day man has continued to manufacture and drink
it. And there has never been a day when the women have not
resented man's use of alcohol, though they have never had the
power to give weight to their resentment. The moment women get
the vote in any community, the first thing they proceed to do is
to close the saloons. In a thousand generations to come men of
themselves will not close the saloons. As well expect the
morphine victims to legislate the sale of morphine out of

The women know. They have paid an incalculable price of sweat and
tears for man's use of alcohol. Ever jealous for the race, they
will legislate for the babes of boys yet to be born; and for the
babes of girls, too, for they must be the mothers, wives, and
sisters of these boys.

And it will be easy. The only ones that will be hurt will be the
topers and seasoned drinkers of a single generation. I am one of
these, and I make solemn assurance, based upon long traffic with
John Barleycorn, that it won't hurt me very much to stop drinking
when no one else drinks and when no drink is obtainable. On the
other hand, the overwhelming proportion of young men are so
normally non-alcoholic, that, never having had access to alcohol,
they will never miss it. They will know of the saloon only in the
pages of history, and they will think of the saloon as a quaint
old custom similar to bull-baiting and the burning of witches.


Of course, no personal tale is complete without bringing the
narrative of the person down to the last moment. But mine is no
tale of a reformed drunkard. I was never a drunkard, and I have
not reformed.

It chanced, some time ago, that I made a voyage of one hundred and
forty-eight days in a windjammer around the Horn. I took no
private supply of alcohol along, and, though there was no day of
those one hundred and forty-eight days that I could not have got a
drink from the captain, I did not take a drink. I did not take a
drink because I did not desire a drink. No one else drank on
board. The atmosphere for drinking was not present, and in my
system there was no organic need for alcohol. My chemistry did
not demand alcohol.

So there arose before me a problem, a clear and simple problem:
weighed this problem carefully. I weighed it for five months, in
a state of absolute non-contact with alcohol. And out of the data
of past experience, I reached certain conclusions.

In the first place, I am convinced that not one man in ten
thousand or in a hundred thousand is a genuine, chemical
dipsomaniac. Drinking, as I deem it, is practically entirely a
habit of mind. It is unlike tobacco, or cocaine, or morphine, or
all the rest of the long list of drugs. The desire for alcohol is
quite peculiarly mental in its origin. It is a matter of mental
training and growth, and it is cultivated in social soil. Not one
drinker in a million began drinking alone. All drinkers begin
socially, and this drinking is accompanied by a thousand social
connotations such as I have described out of my own experience in
the first part of this narrative. These social connotations are
the stuff of which the drink habit is largely composed. The part
that alcohol itself plays is inconsiderable when compared with the
part played by the social atmosphere in which it is drunk. The
human is rarely born these days, who, without long training in the
social associations of drinking, feels the irresistible chemical
propulsion of his system toward alcohol. I do assume that such
rare individuals are born, but I have never encountered one.

On this long, five-months' voyage, I found that among all my
bodily needs not the slightest shred of a bodily need for alcohol
existed. But this I did find: my need was mental and social.
When I thought of alcohol, the connotation was fellowship. When I
thought of fellowship, the connotation was alcohol. Fellowship
and alcohol were Siamese twins. They always occurred linked

Thus, when reading in my deck chair or when talking with others,
practically any mention of any part of the world I knew instantly
aroused the connotation of drinking and good fellows. Big nights
and days and moments, all purple passages and freedoms, thronged
my memory. "Venice" stares at me from the printed page, and I
remember the cafe tables on the sidewalks. "The Battle of
Santiago," some one says, and I answer, "Yes, I've been over the
ground." But I do not see the ground, nor Kettle Hill, nor the
Peace Tree. What I see is the Cafe Venus, on the plaza of
Santiago, where one hot night I drank and talked with a dying

The East End of London, I read, or some one says; and first of
all, under my eyelids, leap the visions of the shining pubs, and
in my ears echo the calls for "two of bitter" and "three of
Scotch." The Latin Quarter--at once I am in the student cabarets,
bright faces and keen spirits around me, sipping cool, well-
dripped absinthe while our voices mount and soar in Latin fashion
as we settle God and art and democracy and the rest of the simple
problems of existence.

In a pampero off the River Plate we speculate, if we are disabled,
of running in to Buenos Ayres, the "Paris of America," and I have
visions of bright congregating places of men, of the jollity of
raised glasses, and of song and cheer and the hum of genial
voices. When we have picked up the North-east Trades in the
Pacific we try to persuade our dying captain to run for Honolulu,
and while I persuade I see myself again drinking cocktails on the
cool lanais and fizzes out at Waikiki where the surf rolls in.
Some one mentions the way wild ducks are cooked in the restaurants
of San Francisco, and at once I am transported to the light and
clatter of many tables, where I gaze at old friends across the
golden brims of long-stemmed Rhine-wine glasses.

And so I pondered my problem. I should not care to revisit all
these fair places of the world except in the fashion I visited
them before. GLASS IN HAND! There is a magic in the phrase. It
means more than all the words in the dictionary can be made to
mean. It is a habit of mind to which I have been trained all my
life. It is now part of the stuff that composes me. I like the
bubbling play of wit, the chesty laughs, the resonant voices of
men, when, glass in hand, they shut the grey world outside and
prod their brains with the fun and folly of an accelerated pulse.

No, I decided; I shall take my drink on occasion. With all the
books on my shelves, with all the thoughts of the thinkers shaded
by my particular temperament, I decided coolly and deliberately
that I should continue to do what I had been trained to want to
do. I would drink--but oh, more skilfully, more discreetly, than
ever before. Never again would I be a peripatetic conflagration.
Never again would I invoke the White Logic. I had learned how not
to invoke him.

The White Logic now lies decently buried alongside the Long
Sickness. Neither will afflict me again. It is many a year since
I laid the Long Sickness away; his sleep is sound. And just as
sound is the sleep of the White Logic. And yet, in conclusion, I
can well say that I wish my forefathers had banished John
Barleycorn before my time. I regret that John Barleycorn
flourished everywhere in the system of society in which I was
born, else I should not have made his acquaintance, and I was long
trained in his acquaintance.

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit Twitter Pinterest