Classics  
English    1874 - 1958   
Robert William Service, the renowned poet of the Yukon, was born in Lancashire, England, on January 16, 1874. The son of a bank cashier, Service was the eldest of four siblings. At the age of five, Service went to Scotland to live with his grandfather and three young aunts, who ... Read more
Robert William Service, the renowned poet of the Yukon, was born in Lancashire, England, on January 16, 1874. The son of a bank cashier, Service was the eldest of four siblings. At the age of five, Service went to Scotland to live with his grandfather and three young aunts, who ... Read more

'Why keep a cow when I can buy,'
Said he, 'the milk I need,'
I wanted to spit in his eye
Of selfishness and greed;
But did not, for the reason he
Was stronger than I be.

I told him: ''Tis our human fate,
For better or for worse,
That man and maid should love and mate,
And little children nurse.
Of course, if you are less than man
You can't do what we can.

'So many loving maids would wed,
And wondrous mothers be.'
'I'll buy the love I want,' he said,
'No squally brats for me.'
. . . I hope the devil stoketh well
For him a special hell.

My mother she had children five and four are dead and gone;
While I, least worthy to survive, persist in living on.
She looks at me, I must confess, sometimes with spite and bitterness.

My mother is three-score and ten, while I am forty-three,
You don't know how it hurts me when we go somewhere to tea,
And people tell her on the sly we look like sisters, she and I.

It hurts to see her secret glee; but most, because it's true.
Sometimes I think she thinks that she looks younger of the two.
Oh as I gently take her arm, how I would love to do her harm!

For ever since I cam from school she put it in my head
I was a weakling and a fool, a "born old maid" she said.
"You'll always stay at home," sighed she, "and keep your Mother company."

Oh pity is a bitter brew; I've drunk it to the lees;
For there is little else to do but do my best to please:
My life has been so little worth I curse the hour she gave me birth.

I curse the hour she gave me breath, who never wished me wife;
My happiest day will be the death of her who gave me life;
I hate her for the life she gave: I hope to dance upon her grave.

She wearing roses in her hat; I wince to hear her say:
"Poor Alice this, poor Alice that," she drains my joy away.
It seems to brace her up that she can pity, pity, pity me.

You'll see us walking in the street, with careful step and slow;
And people often say: "How sweet!" as arm in arm we go.
Like chums we never are apart - yet oh the hatred in my heart!

My chest is weak, and I might be (O God!) the first to go.
For her what triumph that would be - she thinks of it, I know.
To outlive all her kith and kin - how she would glow beneath her skin!

She says she will not make her Will, until she takes to bed;
She little thinks if thoughts could kill, to-morrow she'd be dead. . . .

"Please come to breakfast, Mother dear; Your coffee will be cold I fear."

The daughter of the village Maire
Is very fresh and very fair,
A dazzling eyeful;
She throws upon me such a spell
That though my love I dare not tell,
My heart is sighful.
She has the cutest brown caniche,
The French for "poodle" on a leash,
While I have Bingo;
A dog of doubtful pedigree,
Part pug or pom or chow maybe,
But full of stingo.

The daughter of the village Maire
Would like to speak with me, I'll swear,
In her sweet lingo;
But parlez-vous I find a bore,
For I am British to the core,
And so is Bingo
Yet just to-day as we passed by,
Our two dogs haulted eye to eye,
In friendly poses;
Oh, how I hope to-morrow they
Will wag their tails in merry play,
And rub their noses.

* * * * * * *

The daughter of the village Maire
Today gave me a frigid stare,
My hopes are blighted.
I'll tell you how it came to pass . . .
Last evening in the Square, alas!
My sweet I sighted;
And as she sauntered with her pet,
Her dainty, her adored Frolette,
I cried: "By Jingo!"
Well, call it chance or call it fate,
I made a dash . . . Too late, too late!
Oh, naughty Bingo!

The daughter of the village Maire
That you'll forgive me, is my prayer
And also Bingo.
You should have shielded your caniche:
You saw my dog strain on his leash
And like a spring go.
They say that Love will find a way -
It definitely did, that day . . .
Oh, canine noodles!
Now it is only left to me
To wonder - will your offspring be
Poms, pugs or poodles?

Deeming that I were better dead,
"How shall I kill myself?" I said.
Thus mooning by the river Seine
I sought extinction without pain,
When on a bridge I saw a flash
Of lingerie and heard a splash . . .
So as I am a swimmer stout
I plunged and pulled the poor wretch out.

The female that I saved? Ah yes,
To yield the Morgue of one corpse the less,
Apart from all heroic action,
Gave me a moral satisfaction.
was she an old and withered hag,
Too tired of life to long to lag?
Ah no, she was so young and fair
I fell in love with her right there.

And when she took me to her attic
Her gratitude was most emphatic.
A sweet and simple girl she proved,
Distraught because the man she loved
In battle his life-blood had shed . . .
So I, too, told her of my dead,
The girl who in a garret grey
Had coughed and coughed her life away.

Thus as we sought our griefs to smother,
With kisses we consoled each other . . .
And there's the ending of my story;
It wasn't grim, it wasn't gory.
For comforted were hearts forlorn,
And from black sorrow joy was born:
So may our dead dears be forgiving,
And bless the rapture of the living.

I would rather drink than eat,
And though I superbly sup,
Food, I feel, can never beat
Delectation of the cup.
Wine it is that crowns the feast;
Fish and fowl and fancy meat
Are of my delight the least:
I would rather drink than eat.

Though no Puritan I be,
And have doubts of Kingdom Come,
With those fellows I agree
Who deplore the Demon Rum.
Gin and brandy I decline,
And I shy at whisky neat;
But give me rare vintage wine,--
Gad! I'd rather drink than eat.

Food surfeit is of the beast;
Wine is from the gods a gift.
All from prostitute to priest
Can attest to its uplift.
Green and garnet glows the vine;
Grapes grow plump in happy heat;
Gold and ruby winks the wine . . .
Come! Let's rather drink than eat.

Says I to my Missis: "Ba goom, lass! you've something I see, on your mind."
Says she: "You are right, Sam, I've something. It 'appens it's on me be'ind.
A Boil as 'ud make Job jealous. It 'urts me no end when I sit."
Says I: "Go to 'ospittel, Missis. They might 'ave to coot it a bit."
Says she: "I just 'ate to be showin' the part of me person it's at."
Says I: "Don't be fussy; them doctors see sights more 'orrid than that."

So Misses goes off togged up tasty, and there at the 'ospittel door
They tells 'er to see the 'ouse Doctor, 'oose office is Room Thirty-four.
So she 'unts up and down till she finds it, and knocks and a voice says: "Come in,"
And there is a 'andsome young feller, in white from 'is 'eels to 'is chin.
"I've got a big boil," says my Missis. "It 'urts me for fair when I sit,
And Sam (that's me 'usband) 'as asked me to ask you to coot it a bit."
Then blushin' she plucks up her courage, and bravely she shows 'im the place,
And 'e gives it a proper inspection, wi' a 'eap o' surprise on 'is face.
Then 'e says wi' an accent o' Scotland: "Whit ye hae is a bile, Ah can feel,
But ye'd better consult the heid Dockter; they caw him Professor O'Niel.
He's special for biles and carbuncles. Ye'll find him in Room Sixty-three.
No charge, Ma'am. It's been a rare pleasure. Jist tell him ye're comin' from me."

So Misses she thanks 'im politely, and 'unts up and down as before,
Till she comes to a big 'andsome room with "Professor O'Neil" on the door.
Then once more she plucks up her courage, and knocks, and a voice says: "All right."
So she enters, and sees a fat feller wi' whiskers, all togged up in white.
"I've got a big boil," says my Missis, "and if ye will kindly permit,
I'd like for to 'ave you inspect it; it 'urts me like all when I sit."
So blushin' as red as a beet-root she 'astens to show 'im the spot,
And 'e says wi' a look o' amazement: "Sure, Ma'am, it must hurt ye a lot."
Then 'e puts on 'is specs to regard it, and finally says wi' a frown:
"I'll bet it's as sore as the divvle, especially whin ye sit down.
I think it's a case for the Surgeon; ye'd better consult Doctor Hoyle.
I've no hisitation in sayin' yer boil is a hill of a boil."

So Misses she thanks 'im for sayin' her boil is a hill of a boil,
And 'unts all around till she comes on a door that is marked: "Doctor Hoyle."
But by now she 'as fair got the wind up, and trembles in every limb;
But she thinks: "After all, 'e's a Doctor. Ah moosn't be bashful wi' 'im."
She's made o' good stuff is the Missis, so she knocks and a voice says: "Oos there?"
"It's me," says ma Bessie, an' enters a room which is spacious and bare.
And a wise-lookin' old feller greets 'er, and 'e too is togged up in white.
"It's the room where they coot ye," thinks Bessie; and shakes like a jelly wi' fright.
"Ah got a big boil," begins Missis, "and if ye are sure you don't mind,
I'd like ye to see it a moment. It 'urts me, because it's be'ind."
So thinkin' she'd best get it over, she 'astens to show 'im the place,
And 'e stares at 'er kindo surprised like, an' gets very red in the face.
But 'e looks at it most conscientious, from every angle of view,
Then 'e says wi' a shrug o' 'is shoulders: "Pore Lydy, I'm sorry for you.
It wants to be cut, but you should 'ave a medical bloke to do that.
Sye, why don't yer go to the 'orsespittel, where all the Doctors is at?
Ye see, Ma'am, this part o' the buildin' is closed on account o' repairs;
Us fellers is only the pynters, a-pyntin' the 'alls and the stairs."

I wonder 'oo and wot 'e was,
That 'Un I got so slick.
I couldn't see 'is face because
The night was 'ideous thick.
I just made out among the black
A blinkin' wedge o' white;
Then biff! I guess I got 'im crack --
The man I killed last night.

I wonder if account o' me
Some wench will go unwed,
And 'eaps o' lives will never be,
Because 'e's stark and dead?
Or if 'is missis damns the war,
And by some candle light,
Tow-headed kids are prayin' for
The Fritz I copped last night.

I wonder, 'struth, I wonder why
I 'ad that 'orful dream?
I saw up in the giddy sky
The gates o' God agleam;
I saw the gates o' 'eaven shine
Wiv everlastin' light:
And then . . . I knew that I'd got mine,
As 'e got 'is last night.

Aye, bang beyond the broodin' mists
Where spawn the mother stars,
I 'ammered wiv me bloody fists
Upon them golden bars;
I 'ammered till a devil's doubt
Fair froze me wiv affright:
To fink wot God would say about
The bloke I corpsed last night.

I 'ushed; I wilted wiv despair,
When, like a rosy flame,
I sees a angel standin' there
'Oo calls me by me name.
'E 'ad such soft, such shiny eyes;
'E 'eld 'is 'and and smiled;
And through the gates o' Paradise
'E led me like a child.

'E led me by them golden palms
Wot 'ems that jeweled street;
And seraphs was a-singin' psalms,
You've no ideer 'ow sweet;
Wiv cheroobs crowdin' closer round
Than peas is in a pod,
'E led me to a shiny mound
Where beams the throne o' God.

And then I 'ears God's werry voice:
"Bill 'agan, 'ave no fear.
Stand up and glory and rejoice
For 'im 'oo led you 'ere."
And in a nip I seemed to see:
Aye, like a flash o' light,
My angel pal I knew to be
The chap I plugged last night.

Now, I don't claim to understand --
They calls me Bonehead Bill;
They shoves a rifle in me 'and,
And show me 'ow to kill.
Me job's to risk me life and limb,
But . . . be it wrong or right,
This cross I'm makin', it's for 'im,
The cove I croaked last night.

I much admire, I must admit,
The man who robs a Bank;
It takes a lot of guts and grit,
For lack of which I thank
The gods: a chap 'twould make of me
You wouldn't ask to tea.

I do not mean a burglar cove
Who climbs into a house,
From room to room flash-lit to rove
As quiet as a mouse;
Ah no, in Crime he cannot rank
With him who robs a Bank.

Who seemeth not to care a whoop
For danger at its height;
Who handles what is known as 'soup,'
And dandles dynamite:
Unto a bloke who can do that
I doff my bowler hat.

I think he is the kind of stuff
To be a mighty man
In battlefield,--aye, brave enough
The Cross Victorian
To win and rise to high command,
A hero in the land.

What General with all his swank
Has guts enough to rob a Bank!

I keep collecting books I know
I'll never, never read;
My wife and daughter tell me so,
And yet I never head.
"Please make me," says some wistful tome,
"A wee bit of yourself."
And so I take my treasure home,
And tuck it in a shelf.

And now my very shelves complain;
They jam and over-spill.
They say: "Why don't you ease our strain?"
"some day," I say, "I will."
So book by book they plead and sigh;
I pick and dip and scan;
Then put them back, distrest that I
Am such a busy man.

Now, there's my Boswell and my Sterne,
my Gibbon and Defoe;
To savour Swift I'll never learn,
Montaigne I may not know.
On Bacon I will never sup,
For Shakespeare I've no time;
Because I'm busy making up
These jingly bits of rhyme.

Chekov is caviare to me,
While Stendhal makes me snore;
Poor Proust is not my cup of tea,
And Balzac is a bore.
I have their books, I love their names,
And yet alas! they head,
With Lawrence, Joyce and Henry James,
My Roster of Unread.

I think it would be very well
If I commit a crime,
And get put in a prison cell
And not allowed to rhyme;
Yet given all these worthy books
According to my need,
I now caress with loving looks,
But never, never read.

She

I'm waiting for the man I hope to wed.
I've never seen him - that's the funny part.
I promised I would wear a rose of red,
Pinned on my coat above my fluttered heart,
So that he'd know me - a precaution wise,
Because I wrote him I was twenty-three,
And Oh such heaps and heaps of silly lies. . .
So when we meet what will he think of me?

It's funny, but it has its sorry side;
I put an advert. in the evening Press:
"A lonely maiden fain would be a bride."
Oh it was shameless of me, I confess.
But I am thirty-nine and in despair,
Wanting a home and children ere too late,
And I forget I'm no more young and fair -
I'll hide my rose and run...No, no, I'll wait.

An hour has passed and I am waiting still.
I ought to feel relieved, but I'm so sad.
I would have liked to see him, just to thrill,
And sigh and say: "There goes my lovely lad!
My one romance!" Ah, Life's malign mishap!
"Garcon, a cafè creme." I'll stay till nine. . .
The cafè's empty, just an oldish chap
Who's sitting at the table next to mine. . .

He

I'm waiting for the girl I mean to wed.
She was to come at eight and now it's nine.
She'd pin upon her coat a rose of red,
And I would wear a marguerite in mine.
No sign of her I see...It's true my eyes
Need stronger glasses than the ones I wear,
But Oh I feel my heart would recognize
Her face without the rose - she is so fair.

Ah! what deceivers are we aging men!
What vanity keeps youthful hope aglow!
Poor girl! I sent a photo taken when
I was a student, twenty years ago.
(Hers is so Springlike, Oh so blossom sweet!)
How she will shudder when she sees me now!
I think I'd better hide that marguerite -
How can I age and ugliness avow?

She does not come. It's after nine o'clock.
What fools we fogeys are! I'll try to laugh;
(Garcon, you might bring me another bock)
Falling in love, just from a photograph.
Well, that's the end. I'll go home and forget,
Then realizing I am over ripe
I'll throw away this silly cigarette
And philosophically light my pipe.

* * * * *

The waiter brought the coffee and the beer,
And there they sat, so woe-begone a pair,
And seemed to think: "Why do we linger here?"
When suddenly they turned, to start and stare.
She spied a marguerite, he glimpsed a rose;
Their eyes were joined and in a flash they knew. . .
The sleepy waiter saw, when time to close,
The sweet romance of those deceiving two,
Whose lips were joined, their hearts, their future too.

My poem may be yours indeed
In melody and tone,
If in its rhythm you can read
A music of your own;
If in its pale woof you can weave
Your lovelier design,
'Twill make my lyric, I believe,
More yours than mine.

I'm but a prompter at the best;
Crude cues are all I give.
In simple stanzas I suggest -
'Tis you who make them live.
My bit of rhyme is but a frame,
And if my lines you quote,
I think, although they bear my name,
'Tis you who wrote.

Yours is the beauty that you see
In any words I sing;
The magic and the melody
'Tis you, dear friend, who bring.
Yea, by the glory and the gleam,
The loveliness that lures
Your thought to starry heights of dream,
The poem's yours.

If dogs could speak, O Mademoiselle,
What funny stories they could tell!
For instance, take your little "peke,"
How awkward if the dear could speak!
How sad for you and all of us,
Who round you flutter, flirt and fuss;
Folks think you modest, mild and meek . . .
But would they - if Fi-Fi could speak?

If dogs could tell, Ah Madame Rose,
What secrets could they not disclose!
If your pet poodle Angeline
Could hint at half of what she's seen,
Your reputation would, I fear,
As absolutely disappear
As would a snowball dropped in hell . . .
If Angeline could only tell.

If dogs could speak, how dangerous
It would be for a lot of us!
At what they see and what they hear
They wink an eye and wag an ear.
How fortunate for old and young
The darlings have a silent tongue!
We love them, but it's just as well
For all of us that - dogs can't tell.

I do not swear because I am
A sweet and sober guy;
I cannot vent a single damn
However hard I try.
And in viruperative way,
Though I recall it well,
I never, never, never say
A naughty word like hell.

To rouse my wrath you need not try,
I'm milder than a lamb;
However you may rile me I
Refuse to say: Goddam!
In circumstances fury-fraught
My tongue is always civil,
And though you goad me I will not
Consign you to the divvle.

An no, I never, never swear;
Profanity don't pay;
To cuss won't get you anywhere,
(And neither will to pray.)
And so all blasphemy I stem.
When milk of kindness curds:
But though I never utter them -
Gosh! how I know the words.

As I was saying . . . (No, thank you; I never take cream with my tea;
Cows weren't allowed in the trenches -- got out of the habit, y'see.)
As I was saying, our Colonel leaped up like a youngster of ten:
"Come on, lads!" he shouts, "and we'll show 'em," and he sprang to the head of the men.
Then some bally thing seemed to trip him, and he fell on his face with a slam. . . .
Oh, he died like a true British soldier, and the last word he uttered was "Damn!"
And hang it! I loved the old fellow, and something just burst in my brain,
And I cared no more for the bullets than I would for a shower of rain.
'Twas an awf'ly funny sensation (I say, this is jolly nice tea);
I felt as if something had broken; by gad! I was suddenly free.
Free for a glorified moment, beyond regulations and laws,
Free just to wallow in slaughter, as the chap of the Stone Age was.

So on I went joyously nursing a Berserker rage of my own,
And though all my chaps were behind me, feeling most frightf'ly alone;
With the bullets and shells ding-donging, and the "krock" and the swish of the shrap;
And I found myself humming "Ben Bolt" . . . (Will you pass me the sugar, old chap?
Two lumps, please). . . . What was I saying? Oh yes, the jolly old dash;
We simply ripped through the barrage, and on with a roar and a crash.
My fellows -- Old Nick couldn't stop 'em. On, on they went with a yell,
Till they tripped on the Boches' sand-bags, -- nothing much left to tell:
A trench so tattered and battered that even a rat couldn't live;
Some corpses tangled and mangled, wire you could pass through a sieve.

The jolly old guns had bilked us, cheated us out of our show,
And my fellows were simply yearning for a red mix-up with the foe.
So I shouted to them to follow, and on we went roaring again,
Battle-tuned and exultant, on in the leaden rain.
Then all at once a machine gun barks from a bit of a bank,
And our Major roars in a fury: "We've got to take it on flank."
He was running like fire to lead us, when down like a stone he comes,
As full of "typewriter" bullets as a pudding is full of plums.
So I took his job and we got 'em. . . . By gad! we got 'em like rats;
Down in a deep shell-crater we fought like Kilkenny cats.
'Twas pleasant just for a moment to be sheltered and out of range,
With someone you saw to go for -- it made an agreeable change.

And the Boches that missed my bullets, my chaps gave a bayonet jolt,
And all the time, I remember, I whistled and hummed "Ben Bolt".
Well, that little job was over, so hell for leather we ran,
On to the second line trenches, -- that's where the fun began.
For though we had strafed 'em like fury, there still were some Boches about,
And my fellows, teeth set and eyes glaring, like terriers routed 'em out.
Then I stumbled on one of their dug-outs, and I shouted: "Is anyone there?"
And a voice, "Yes, one; but I'm wounded," came faint up the narrow stair;
And my man was descending before me, when sudden a cry! a shot!
(I say, this cake is delicious. You make it yourself, do you not?)
My man? Oh, they killed the poor devil; for if there was one there was ten;
So after I'd bombed 'em sufficient I went down at the head of my men,
And four tried to sneak from a bunk-hole, but we cornered the rotters all right;
I'd rather not go into details, 'twas messy that bit of the fight.

But all of it's beastly messy; let's talk of pleasanter things:
The skirts that the girls are wearing, ridiculous fluffy things,
So short that they show. . . . Oh, hang it! Well, if I must, I must.
We cleaned out the second trench line, bomb and bayonet thrust;
And on we went to the third one, quite calloused to crumping by now;
And some of our fellows who'd passed us were making a deuce of a row;
And my chaps -- well, I just couldn't hold 'em; (It's strange how it is with gore;
In some ways it's just like whiskey: if you taste it you must have more.)
Their eyes were like beacons of battle; by gad, sir! they COULDN'T be calmed,
So I headed 'em bang for the bomb-belt, racing like billy-be-damned.
Oh, it didn't take long to arrive there, those who arrived at all;
The machine guns were certainly chronic, the shindy enough to appal.
Oh yes, I omitted to tell you, I'd wounds on the chest and the head,
And my shirt was torn to a gun-rag, and my face blood-gummy and red.

I'm thinking I looked like a madman; I fancy I felt one too,
Half naked and swinging a rifle. . . . God! what a glorious "do".
As I sit here in old Piccadilly, sipping my afternoon tea,
I see a blind, bullet-chipped devil, and it's hard to believe that it's me;
I see a wild, war-damaged demon, smashing out left and right,
And humming "Ben Bolt" rather loudly, and hugely enjoying the fight.
And as for my men, may God bless 'em! I've loved 'em ever since then:
They fought like the shining angels; they're the pick o' the land, my men.
And the trench was a reeking shambles, not a Boche to be seen alive --
So I thought; but on rounding a traverse I came on a covey of five;
And four of 'em threw up their flippers, but the fifth chap, a sergeant, was game,
And though I'd a bomb and revolver he came at me just the same.
A sporty thing that, I tell you; I just couldn't blow him to hell,
So I swung to the point of his jaw-bone, and down like a ninepin he fell.
And then when I'd brought him to reason, he wasn't half bad, that Hun;
He bandaged my head and my short-rib as well as the Doc could have done.
So back I went with my Boches, as gay as a two-year-old colt,
And it suddenly struck me as rummy, I still was a-humming "Ben Bolt".
And now, by Jove! how I've bored you. You've just let me babble away;
Let's talk of the things that matter -- your car or the newest play. . . .

Aye, Montecelli, that's the name.
You may have heard of him perhaps.
Yet though he never savoured fame,
Of those impressionistic chaps,
Monet and Manet and Renoir
He was the avatar.

He festered in a Marseilles slum,
A starving genius, god-inspired.
You'd take him for a lousy bum,
Tho' poetry of paint he lyred,
In dreamy pastels each a gem: . . .
How people laughed at them!

He peddled paint from bar to bar;
From sordid rags a jewel shone,
A glow of joy and colour far
From filth of fortune woe-begone.
'Just twenty francs,' he shyly said,
'To take me drunk to bed.'

Of Van Gogh and Cezanne a peer;
In dreams of ecstasy enskied,
A genius and a pioneer,
Poor, paralysed and mad he died:
Yet by all who hold Beauty dear
May he be glorified!

I scanned two lines with some surmise
As over Keats I chanced to pore:
'And there I shut her wild, wild eyes
With kisses four.'

Says I: 'Why was it only four,
Not five or six or seven?
I think I would have made it more,--
Even eleven.

'Gee! If she'd lured a guy like me
Into her gelid grot
I'd make that Belle Dame sans Merci
Sure kiss a lot.

'Them poets have their little tricks;
I think John counted kisses for,
Not two or three or five or six
To rhyme with "sore."'

Of bosom friends I've had but seven,
Despite my years are ripe;
I hope they're now enjoying Heaven,
Although they're not the type;
Nor, candidly, no more am I,
Though overdue to die.

For looking back I see that they
Were weak and wasteful men;
They loved a sultry jest alway,
And women now and then.
They smoked and gambled, soused and swore,
--Yet no one was a bore.

'Tis strange I took to lads like these,
On whom the good should frown;
Yet all with poetry would please
To wash his wassail down;
Their temples touched the starry way,
But O what feet of clay!

Well, all are dust, of fame bereft;
They bore a cruel cross,
And I, the canny one, am left,--
Yet as I grieve their loss,
I deem, because they loved me well,
They'll welcome me in Hell.

Ho! we were strong, we were swift, we were brave.
Youth was a challenge, and Life was a fight.
All that was best in us gladly we gave,
Sprang from the rally, and leapt for the height.
Smiling is Love in a foam of Spring flowers:
Harden our hearts to him -- on let us press!
Oh, what a triumph and pride shall be ours!
See where it beacons, the star of success!

Cares seem to crowd on us -- so much to do;
New fields to conquer, and time's on the wing.
Grey hairs are showing, a wrinkle or two;
Somehow our footstep is losing its spring.
Pleasure's forsaken us, Love ceased to smile;
Youth has been funeralled; Age travels fast.
Sometimes we wonder: is it worth while?
There! we have gained to the summit at last.

Aye, we have triumphed! Now must we haste,
Revel in victory . . . why! what is wrong?
Life's choicest vintage is flat to the taste --
Are we too late? Have we laboured too long?
Wealth, power, fame we hold . . . ah! but the truth:
Would we not give this vain glory of ours
For one mad, glad year of glorious youth,
Life in the Springtide, and Love in the flowers.

Two blind men met. Said one: "This earth
Has been a blackout from my birth.
Through darkness I have groped my way,
Forlorn, unknowing night from day.
But you - though War destroyed your sight,
Still have your memories of Light,
And to allay your present pain
Can live your golden youth again."

Then said the second: "Aye, it's true,
It must seem magical to you
To know the shape of things that are,
A women's lips, a rose, a star.
But therein lies the hell of it;
Better my eyes had never lit
to love of bluebells in a wood,
Or daffodils in dancing mood.

"You do not know what you have lost,
But I, alas! can count the cost -
Than memories that goad and gall,
Far better not to see at all.
And as for love, you know it not,
For pity is our sorry lot.
So there you see my point of view:
'Tis I, my friend, who envy you.

And which was right still puzzles me:
Perhaps one should be blind to see.

I am a mild man, you'll agree,
But red my rage is,
When folks who borrow books from me
Turn down their pages.

Or when a chap a book I lend,
And find he's loaned it
Without permission to a friend -
As if he owned it.

But worst of all I hate those crooks
(May hell-fires burn them!)
Who beg the loan of cherished books
And don't return them.

My books are tendrils of myself
No shears can sever . . .
May he who rapes one from its shelf
Be damned forever.

 
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