Robert William Service

(16 January 1874 - 11 September 1958 / Preston)

Old Trouper


I was Mojeska's leading man
And famous parts I used to play,
But now I do the best I can
To earn my bread from day to day;
Here in this Burg of Breaking Hears,
Where one wins as a thousand fail,
I play a score of scurvy parts
Till Time writes Finis to my tale.

My wife is dead, my daughter wed,
With heaps of trouble of their own;
And though I hold aloft my head
I'm humble, scared and all alone . . .
To-night I burn each photograph,
Each record of my former fame,
And oh, how bitterly I laugh
And feed them to the hungry flame!

Behold how handsome I was then -
What glowing eye, what noble mien;
I towered above my fellow men,
And proudly strode the painted scene.
Ah, Vanity! What fools are we,
With empty ends and foolish aims . . .
There now, I fling with savage glee
My David Garrick to the flames.

"Is this a dagger that I see":
Oh, how I used to love that speech;
We were old-fashioned - "hams" maybe,
Yet we Young Arrogance could teach.
"Out, out brief candle!" There are gone
My Lear, my Hamlet and MacBeth;
And now by ashes cold and wan
I wait my cue, my prompter Death.

This life of ours is just a play;
Its end is fashioned from the start;
Fate writes each word we have to say,
And puppet-like we strut our part.
Once I wore laurels on my brow,
But now I wait, a sorry clown,
To make my furtive, farewell bow . . .
Haste Time! Oh, ring the Curtain down.

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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