‘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, or 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 fact, 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 you 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 true
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;
Category: Declamation Pieces