Hugh Antoine D Arcy

The Face On The Barroom Floor

'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.

Poem Submitted: Monday, September 27, 2010

Form: Ballad


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Comments about The Face On The Barroom Floor by Hugh Antoine D Arcy

  • Johnny Brown (10/12/2020 12:53:00 PM)

    I love this poem My was alcoholic he memorized it in its entirety..

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  • Butch Whidden (9/10/2020 12:37:00 PM)

    This is one of Dad's favorite poems. He didn't speak it from memory but he did reference it often. I have been to the Teller House Bar in Central City, Colo twice and saw the painting of the " Face" both times. It is a site to see and recommend seeing it to anyone who is traveling anywhere near Denver.

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  • Joan Patrick (2/26/2019 9:25:00 AM)

    My dad, a retired US Marine who died in 2005 at age 86, could recite this poem. One time he recited it at a party at our home. He was standing behind his bar(appropriate) and at the end he reached down and pulled a poster board with a sketch of a woman’s face and tossed on the floor....I’ll never forget it.

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  • Frannie (2/3/2019 4:11:00 PM)

    My uncle Clarence a tall handsome African American man if living would be 85. Today is his birthday and for as long as I could remember he would recite this ballad every year on his day why? I never knew but when he did he mesmerized you and u listened as if u heard it for the first time. My uncle lived reciting poetry from memory and u could hear a pin drop when he did. So here is to you. I read it every year on your day miss u so

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  • Jeanette Jensen (6/19/2018 9:36:00 AM)

    I have Mr. D'Arcy's book with this poem. At one time he was a neighbor of my mother when she was small and he signed a copy addressed to her. Would this be valuable?

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  • Margaret Gain (5/8/2018 9:20:00 PM)

    My Mom used to read us poems on Sunday evenings and The Face on the Barroom Floor was one of them. Loved it then, love it now.

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    Grace Wagner(3/13/2020 4:36:00 PM)

    My dad would recite this poem while driving my sister and I down the shore. He also
    would recite The Highway Man.

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  • John O’Shea (1/25/2018 4:49:00 PM)

    Memorized it from a MAD COMIC BOOK because I heard a friend of my dads reciting it. I was a young

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