The Spell of the Yukon and Other Verses

Robert W. Service

New Year's Eve

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!"

©1907 Robert W. Service

Return to Spell of the Yukon... - Index

To More Northern Literature Links