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Robert William Service

(16 January 1874 - 11 September 1958 / Preston)

Dram-Shop Ditty


I drink my fill of foamy ale
I sing a song, I tell a tale,
I play the fiddle;
My throat is chronically dry,
Yet savant of a sort am I,
And Life's my riddle.

For look! I raise my arm to drink-
A voluntary act, you think
(Nay, Sir, you're grinning)>
You're wrong: this stein of beer I've drained
to emptiness was pre-ordained
Since Time's beginning.

But stay! 'Tis I who err, because
Time has no birth; it always was,
It will be ever;
And trivial though my act appears,
Its repercussion down the years
Will perish never.

It will condition ages hence,
but its most urgent consequence,
You'll not deny, Sir,
Is that it should be filled again
To goad my philosophic brain,
If you will buy, Sir.

There is no great, there is no small;
Fate makes a tapestry of all,
each stitch is needed . . .
The gods be praised! that barman chap
Manipulates his frothing tap -
My plea is heeded.

Two foaming tankards over-spill,
And soon, ah! not too soon, they will
Our thirst be slaking.
Stout lad! he does not dream that he
A page of history maybe
Is blandly making.

For Sir, it was ordained that you
Buy me a drink (or maybe two)
Since ages hoary;
And doubtless it is predestined
our meeting shall affect in kind
Earth's Cosmic Story.

The fathomless, eternal Past,
The Future infinitely vast,
We two are linking;
So let us fitly celebrate
This moment of immortal Fate
In drinking, drinking.

But though I toss a hearty pot,
Kind stranger, do not think I'm not
For Truth a groper . . .
Another? Thanks, I won't refuse,
I am a tippler, if you choose,
But not a toper.

A nice distinction! . . . Well, life's good;
Just give me beer, rich greasy food,
And let me fiddle;
Enough of dull philosophy;
To-night we'll merry, merry be . . .
Hi-diddle-diddle.

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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