Charles recited this poem to me this weekend during a visit. His ability to recollect certain things like dates, songs, and folk poems has surprised me before.
I don’t know anything about the origins of this poem, other than what I found at wikipedia-
‘Twas a balmy summer evening
And a goodly crowd was there,
That well nigh filled Joe’s barroom
At the corner of the square.
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 is 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 fact, he smiled as though he thought
He had 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 lad was never slow. What? You laugh as though you think,
This pocket never held a sou,
I once was fixed as well, my boys,
As any 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.
Aye, give me another whiskey and I’ll tell you what to do
I’ll tell you a funny story and in fact I’ll promise two.
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 ‘er up, Joe, I want to put some life
Into this old frame.
Such little drinks, to a bum like me
are miserably tame.
Five fingers, that’s the scene, and corking and whiskey too,
Well, here’s luck boys, and landlord,
My best respects to you.
You’ve treated me pretty kindly,
And I’d like to tell you how,
I came to be this dirty sap, you see before you now.
As I told you once, I was a man
With muscle, frame and health,
But for a blunder, ought have made considerable wealth.
I was a painter, not one that daubed on bricks or wood,
But an artist, and for my age I was rated pretty good,
I worked hard at my canvas, and bidding fair to rise,
And gradually I saw, the star of fame before my eyes.
I made a picture, perhaps you’ve seen,
It’s called the “Chase of Fame.”
It brought me fifteen hundred pounds
And added to my name.
It was then I met a woman, now come the funny part;
With eyes that petrified my brain, and sank into my heart.
Why don’t you laugh it’s funny, that the vagabond you see
could ever have a woman and expect her love for me.
But it was so, and for a month or two, her smiles were freely given,
And when her loving lips touched mine, I thought I was in heaven.
Boys did you ever see a girl, for whom your soul you’d give,
With a form like Venus De Milo, too beautiful to live,
With eyes that would beat the Koh-i-noor,
And a wealth of chestnut hair?
If so, it was she, for boys 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.
My Madeline admired him,
And much to my surprise,
She said she’d like to know the lad,
Who had such dreamy eyes.
She didn’t take long to find him,
Before the month had flown,
My friend had stolen my darling,
And I was left alone.
And ere a year of misery had passed above my head.
That jewel I 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 boys, and laughing all the while.
Why, what’s the matter friend? There’s a teardrop in your eye.
Come, laugh like me. It’s only babes and women that should cry.
Say boys, if you give me just another whiskey and I’ll be glad,
I’ll draw right here the 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 barroom 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 that shapely head,
With a fearful shriek, he leaped and fell across the picture — dead!