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- 'TWAS a balmy summer evening, and a goodly crowd was there,
- Which well-nigh filled Joe's barroom, on the corner of the square;
- And as songs and witty stories came through the open door,
- A vagabond crept slowly in and posed upon the floor.
- "Where did it come from?" someone said. " The wind has blown it in."
- "What does it want?" another cried. "Some whiskey, rum or gin?"
- "Here, Toby, sic 'em, if your stomach's equal to the work --
- I wouldn't touch him with a fork, he's filthy as a Turk."
- This badinage the poor wretch took with stoical good grace;
- In face, he smiled as tho' he thought he'd struck the proper place.
- "Come, boys, I know there's kindly hearts among so good a crowd --
- To be in such good company would make a deacon proud.
- "Give me a drink -- that's what I want -- I'm out of funds, you know,
- When I had cash to treat the gang this hand was never slow.
- What? You laugh as if you thought this pocket never held a sou;
- I once was fixed as well, my boys, as any one of you.
- "There, thanks, that's braced me nicely; God bless you one and all;
- Next time I pass this good saloon I'll make another call.
- Give you a song? No, I can't do that; my singing days are past;
- My voice is cracked, my throat's worn out, and my lungs are going fast.
- "I'll tell you a funny story, and a fact, I promise, too.
- Say! Give me another whiskey, and I'll tell what I'll do --
- That I was ever a decent man not one of you would think;
- But I was, some four or five years back. Say, give me another drink.
- "Fill her up, Joe, I want to put some life into my frame --
- Such little drinks to a bum like me are miserably tame;
- Five fingers -- there, that's the scheme -- and corking whiskey, too.
- Well, here's luck, boys, and landlord, my best regards to you.
- "You've treated me pretty kindly and I'd like to tell you how
- I came to be the dirty sot you see before you now.
- As I told you, once I was a man, with muscle, frame, and health,
- And but for a blunder ought to have made considerable wealth.
- "I was a painter -- not one that daubed on bricks and wood,
- But an artist, and for my age, was rated pretty good.
- I worked hard at my canvas, and was bidding fair to rise,
- For gradually I saw the star of fame before my eyes.
- "I made a picture perhaps you've seen, 'tis called the `Chase of Fame.'
- It brought me fifteen hundred pounds and added to my name,
- And then I met a woman -- now comes the funny part --
- With eyes that petrified my brain, and sunk into my heart.
- "Why don't you laugh? 'Tis funny that the vagabond you see
- Could ever love a woman, and expect her love for me;
- But 'twas so, and for a month or two, her smiles were freely given,
- And when her loving lips touched mine, it carried me to Heaven.
- "Boys, did you ever see a girl for whom your soul you'd give,
- With a form like the Milo Venus, too beautiful to live;
- With eyes that would beat the Koh-i-noor, and a wealth of chestnut hair?
- If so, 'twas she, for there never was another half so fair.
- "I was working on a portrait, one afternoon in May,
- Of a fair-haired boy, a friend of mine, who lived across the way.
- And Madeline admired it, and much to my surprise,
- Said she'd like to know the man that had such dreamy eyes.
- "It didn't take long to know him, and before the month had flown
- My friend had stole my darling, and I was left alone;
- And ere a year of misery had passed above my head,
- The jewel I had treasured so had tarnished and was dead.
- "That's why I took to drink, boys. Why, I never see you smile,
- I thought you'd be amused, and laughing all the while.
- Why, what's the matter, friend? There's a tear-drop in you eye,
- Come, laugh like me. 'Tis only babes and women that should cry.
- "Say, boys, if you give me just another whiskey I'll be glad,
- And I'll draw right here a picture of the face that drove me mad.
- Give me that piece of chalk with which you mark the baseball score --
- You shall see the lovely Madeline upon the barroon floor."
- Another drink, and with chalk in hand, the vagabond began
- To sketch a face that well might buy the soul of any man.
- Then, as he placed another lock upon the shapely head,
- With a fearful shriek, he leaped and fell across the picture -- dead.
- Hugh Antoine D'Arcy
Poets' Corner .
H O M E .