Robert William Service (16 January 1874 - 11 September 1958 / Preston)
In the moonless, misty night, with my little pipe alight,
I am sitting by the camp-fire's fading cheer;
Oh, the dew is falling chill on the dim, deer-haunted hill,
And the breakers in the bay are moaning drear.
The toilful hours are sped, the boys are long abed,
And I alone a weary vigil keep;
In the sightless, sullen sky I can hear the night-hawk cry,
And the frogs in frenzied chorus from the creek.
And somehow the embers' glow brings me back the long ago,
The days of merry laughter and light song;
When I sped the hours away with the gayest of the gay
In the giddy whirl of fashion's festal throng.
Oh, I ran a grilling race and I little recked the pace,
For the lust of youth ran riot in my blood;
But at last I made a stand in this God-forsaken land
Of the pine-tree and the mountain and the flood.
And now I've got to stay, with an overdraft to pay,
For pleasure in the past with future pain;
And I'm not the chap to whine, for if the chance were mine
I know I'd choose the old life once again.
With its woman's eyes a-shine, and its flood of golden wine;
Its fever and its frolic and its fun;
The old life with its din, its laughter and its sin --
And chuck me in the gutter when it's done.
Ah, well! it's past and gone, and the memory is wan,
That conjures up each old familiar face;
And here by fortune hurled, I am dead to all the world,
And I've learned to lose my pride and keep my place.
My ways are hard and rough, and my arms are strong and tough,
And I hew the dizzy pine till darkness falls;
And sometimes I take a dive, just to keep my heart alive,
Among the gay saloons and dancing halls.
In the distant, dinful town just a little drink to drown
The cares that crowd and canker in my brain;
Just a little joy to still set my pulses all a-thrill,
Then back to brutish labour once again.
And things will go on so until one day I shall know
That Death has got me cinched beyond a doubt;
Then I'll crawl away from sight, and morosely in the night
My weary, wasted life will peter out.
Then the boys will gather round, and they'll launch me in the ground,
And pile the stones the timber wolf to foil;
And the moaning pine will wave overhead a nameless grave,
Where the black snake in the sunshine loves to coil.
And they'll leave me there alone, and perhaps with softened tone
Speak of me sometimes in the camp-fire's glow,
As a played-out, broken chum, who has gone to Kingdom Come,
And who went the pace in England long ago.
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