Robert William Service (16 January 1874 - 11 September 1958 / Preston)
The Mystery Of Mister Smith
For supper we had curried tripe.
I washed the dishes, wound the clock;
Then for awhile I smoked my pipe -
Puff! Puff! We had no word of talk.
The Misses sewed - a sober pair;
Says I at last: "I need some air."
A don't know why I acted so;
I had no thought, no plot, no plan.
I did not really mean to go -
I'm such a docile little man;
But suddenly I felt that I
Must change my life or I would die.
A sign I saw: A ROOM TO LET.
It had a musty, dusty smell;
It gloated gloom, it growled and yet
Somehow I felt I liked it well.
I paid the rent a month ahead:
That night I smoked my pipe in bed.
From out my world I disappeared;
My walk and talk changed over-night.
I bought black glasses, grew a beard -
Abysmally I dropped from sight;
Old Tax Collector, Mister Smith
Became a memory, a myth.
I see my wife in widow's weeds;
She's gained in weight since I have gone.
My pension serves her modest needs,
She keeps the old apartment on;
And living just a block away
I meet her nearly every day.
I hope she doesn't mourn too much;
She has a sad and worried look.
One day we passed and chanced to touch,
But as with sudden fear I shook,
So blankly in my face she peered,
I had to chuckle in my beard.
Oh, comfort is a blessed thing,
But forty years of it I had.
I never drank the wine of Spring,
No moon has ever made me mad.
I never clutched the skirts of Chance
Nor daftly dallied with Romance.
And that is why I seek to save
My soul before it is too late,
To put between me and the grave
A few years of fantastic fate:
I've won to happiness because
I've killed the man that once I was.
I've murdered Income Taxer Smith,
And now I'm Johnny Jones to you.
I have no home, no kin, no kith,
I do the things I want to do.
No matter though I've not a friend,
I've won to freedom in the end.
Bohemian born, I guess, was I;
And should my wife her widowhood
By wedlock end I will not sigh,
But pack my grip and go for good,
To live in lands where laws are lax,
And innocent of Income Tax.
Read this poem in other languages
This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.