The Low-Down White
This is the pay-day up at the mines,
when the bearded brutes come down;
There's money to burn in the streets to-night,
so I've sent my klooch to town,
With a haggard face and a ribband of red
entwined in her hair of brown.
And I know at the dawn she'll come reeling home
with the bottles, one, two, three --
One for herself, to drown her shame, and two big bottles for me.
To make me forget the thing I am and the man I used to be.
To make me forget the brand of the dog,
as I crouch in this hideous place;
To make me forget once I kindled the light of love in a lady's face,
Where even the squalid Siwash now holds me a black disgrace.
Oh, I have guarded my secret well! And who would dream as I speak
In a tribal tongue like a rogue unhung,
'mid the ranch-house filth and reek,
I could roll to bed with a Latin phrase
and rise with a verse of Greek?
Yet I was a senior prizeman once, and the pride of a college eight;
Called to the bar -- my friends were true!
but they could not keep me straight;
Then came the divorce, and I went abroad
and "died" on the River Plate.
But I'm not dead yet; though with half a lung
there isn't time to spare,
And I hope that the year will see me out,
and, thank God, no one will care --
Save maybe the little slim Siwash girl
with the rose of shame in her hair.
She will come with the dawn, and the dawn is near;
I can see its evil glow,
Like a corpse-light seen through a frosty pane
in a night of want and woe;
And yonder she comes by the bleak bull-pines,
swift staggering through the snow.
Robert Service: The Low-Down White