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Robert Service: The Low-Down White


The Low-Down White

Robert Service

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.