Djohn barleycorn by jack london

By Jack London (1876-1916)


It all came to me one election day. It was on a warm California
Afternoon, and I had ridden down into the Valley of the Moon from
The ranch to the little village to vote Yes and No to a host of
Proposed amendments to the Constitution of the State of
California. Because of the warmth of the day I had had several
Drinks before casting my ballot, and divers drinks after casting
It. Then I had ridden up through the vine-clad hills and rolling
Pastures of the ranch, and arrived at the farm-house in time for
Another drink and supper.

“How did you vote on the suffrage amendment?” Charmian asked.

“I voted for it.”

She uttered an exclamation of surprise. For, be it known, in my
Younger days, despite my ardent democracy, I had been opposed to
Woman suffrage. In my later and more tolerant years I had been
Unenthusiastic in my acceptance of it as an inevitable social

“Now just why did you vote for it?” Charmian asked.

I answered. I answered at length. I answered indignantly. The
More I answered, the more indignant I became. (No; I was not
Drunk. The horse I had ridden was well named “The Outlaw.” I’d
Like to see any drunken man ride her.)

And yet – how shall I say? – I was lighted up, I was feeling “good,”
I was pleasantly jingled.

“When the women get the ballot, they will vote for prohibition,” I
Said. “It is the wives, and sisters, and mothers, and they only,
Who will drive the nails into the coffin of John Barleycorn – – “

“But I thought you were a friend to John Barleycorn,” Charmian

“I am. I was. I am not. I never am. I am never less his friend
Than when

he is with me and when I seem most his friend. He is
The king of liars. He is the frankest truthsayer. He is the
August companion with whom one walks with the gods. He is also in
League with the Noseless One. His way leads to truth naked, and
To death. He gives clear vision, and muddy dreams. He is the
Enemy of life, and the teacher of wisdom beyond life’s wisdom. He
Is a red-handed killer, and he slays youth.”

And Charmian looked at me, and I knew she wondered where I had got

I continued to talk. As I say, I was lighted up. In my brain
Every thought was at home. Every thought, in its little cell,
Crouched ready-dressed at the door, like prisoners at midnight a
Jail-break. And every thought was a vision, bright-imaged, sharp-
Cut, unmistakable. My brain was illuminated by the clear, white
Light of alcohol. John Barleycorn was on a truth-telling rampage,
Giving away the choicest secrets on himself. And I was his
Spokesman. There moved the multitudes of memories of my past
Life, all orderly arranged like soldiers in some vast review. It
Was mine to pick and choose. I was a lord of thought, the master
Of my vocabulary and of the totality of my experience, unerringly
Capable of selecting my data and building my exposition. For so
John Barleycorn tricks and lures, setting the maggots of
Intelligence gnawing, whispering his fatal intuitions of truth,
Flinging purple passages into the monotony of one’s days.

I outlined my life to Charmian, and expounded the make-up of my
Constitution. I was no hereditary alcoholic. I had been born
With no organic, chemical predisposition toward alcohol. In this
Matter I was normal in my generation. Alcohol was an acquired
Taste. It had been painfully acquired. Alcohol had been a

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Djohn barleycorn by jack london