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Robert Service: New Year's Eve

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New Year's Eve

Robert Service


It's cruel cold on the water-front, silent and dark and drear;

Only the black tide weltering, only the hissing snow;

And I, alone, like a storm-tossed wreck,

on this night of the glad New Year,

Shuffling along in the icy wind, ghastly and gaunt and slow.

They're playing a tune in McGuffy's saloon,

and it's cheery and bright in there

(God! but I'm weak -- since the bitter dawn,

and never a bite of food);

I'll just go over and slip inside -- I mustn't give way to despair --

Perhaps I can bum a little booze if the boys are feeling good.

They'll jeer at me, and they'll sneer at me,

and they'll call me a whiskey soak;

("Have a drink? Well, thankee kindly, sir, I don't mind if I do.")

A drivelling, dirty, gin-joint fiend, the butt of the bar-room joke;

Sunk and sodden and hopeless -- "Another? Well, here's to you!"

McGuffy is showing a bunch of the boys how Bob Fitzsimmons hit;

The barman is talking of Tammany Hall,

and why the ward boss got fired.

I'll just sneak into a corner and they'll let me alone a bit;

The room is reeling round and round.. .

O God! but I'm tired, I'm tired.. ..

* * * * *

Roses she wore on her breast that night.

Oh, but their scent was sweet!

Alone we sat on the balcony, and the fan-palms arched above;

The witching strain of a waltz by Strauss

came up to our cool retreat,

And I prisoned her little hand in mine,

and I whispered my plea of love.

Then sudden the laughter died on her lips,

and lowly she bent her head;

And oh, there came in the deep, dark eyes

a look that was heaven to see;

And the moments went, and I waited there, and never a word was said,

And she plucked from her bosom a rose of red

and shyly gave it to me.

Then the music swelled to a crash of joy,

and the lights blazed up like day,

And I held her fast to my throbbing heart,

and I kissed her bonny brow.

"She is mine, she is mine for evermore!" the violins seemed to say,

And the bells were ringing the New Year in --

O God! I can hear them now.

Don't you remember that long, last waltz,

with its sobbing, sad refrain?

Don't you remember that last good-by,

and the dear eyes dim with tears?

Don't you remember that golden dream, with never a hint of pain,

Of lives that would blend like an angel-song

in the bliss of the coming years?

Oh, what have I lost! What have I lost! Ethel, forgive, forgive!

The red, red rose is faded now, and it's fifty years ago.

'Twere better to die a thousand deaths than live each day as I live!

I have sinned, I have sunk to the lowest depths --

but oh, I have suffered so!

Hark! Oh, hark! I can hear the bells!.. .Look! I can see her there,

Fair as a dream.. .but it fades.. .And now --

I can hear the dreadful hum

Of the crowded court.. .See! the Judge looks down.. .

NOT GUILTY, my Lord, I swear.. .

The bells -- I can hear the bells again!.. .

Ethel, I come, I come!.. .

* * * * *

"Rouse up, old man, it's twelve o'clock.

You can't sleep here, you know.

Say! ain't you got no sentiment? Lift up your muddled head;

Have a drink to the glad New Year, a drop before you go --

You darned old dirty hobo.. .My God! Here, boys! He's DEAD!"