In the Edgar Allan Poe poem, a "gallant knight" sets out to find "Eldorado," that mystical place where everything is perfect.

He never gets there.

Just as the FLDS Church never got there. They thought they'd found "Utopia" — a place of ideal perfection — in Eldorado, Texas, a place where the evils of the world could be walled away. But they failed — not because evil managed to work its way into their compound, but because the very people carried evil into it in their hearts.

Such is the lot of all Utopian societies. Like the wild apple tree that produces apples with worms born into them, communal societies fail because people can never escape their own darker natures. We carry corruption inside the way "carriers" haul around the seeds of tuberculosis.

The Amish tried to escape corruption in Pennsylvania, only to find their young men turning to alcohol.

The Mennonites in Mexico fled into the wilderness, only to see their communes become launching pads for drug traffickers.

Even the Communists found that the "paradise" pictured by Karl Marx couldn't stamp out the self-interest within each human heart.

And now we have Eldorado, Texas.

The ugly debacle there showcases an age-old truth: The "ideal" will never be "practical." The closest we'll ever come is the vague notion of it we carry in our heads.

Back in the 1840s, some of America's brightest and most moral minds tried to create a closed society where human beings could reach their true potential for compassion, creativity and love. Brook Farm was the brainchild of a Unitarian minister named George Ripley. Nathaniel Hawthorne joined up. So did Henry David Thoreau. They wanted to create a Shangri-la. Women were encouraged to develop their talents. Men helped out with the laundry. People were allowed to worship as they wished. The place ran as sweetly as a Rolex watch — for about five years. But before long, people began to taking pride in Brook Farm and got ambitious about it. They built a grand and glorious community hall for all to admire.

When a suspicious fire burned the hall to the ground, the dreams of Brook Farm turned to ashes as well. The community disbanded. Later, Hawthorne would write about Brook Farm in his book, "The Blithedale Romance."

"We had pleased ourselves with delectable visions of the spiritualization of labor," he wrote. But as they turned over dirt clods in the field, they found "our thoughts were fast becoming cloddish."

"Cloddish" is a mild word for the acts that are coming to light in Eldorado, Texas.

Like all Utopias before it, Eldorado, Texas, was a failed experiment.

Nobody ever finds Eldorado.

In his poem, Poe writes:

But he grew old —

This knight so bold —

And o'er his heart a shadow

Fell as he found

No spot of ground

That looked like Eldorado.

There are no Eldorados.

Not even in Texas.

E-mail: jerjohn@desnews.com