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Decadence



Before the florid portico
I watched the gamblers come and go,
While by me on a bench there sat
A female in a faded hat;
A shabby, shrinking, crumpled creature,
Of waxy casino-ward with eyes
Of lost soul seeking paradise.

Then from the Café de la Paix
There shambled forth a waiter fellow,
Clad dingily, down-stooped and grey,
With hollow face, careworn and yellow.
With furtive feet before our seat
He came to a respectful stand,
And bowed, my sorry crone to greet,
Saying: "Princess, I kiss your hand."

She gave him such a gracious smile,
And bade him linger by her side;
So there they talked a little while
Of kingly pomp and country pride;
Of Marquis This and Prince von That,
Of Old Vienna, glamour gay. . . .
Then sad he rose and raised his hat:
Saying: "My tables I must lay."

"Yea, you must go, dear Count," she said,
"For luncheon tables must be laid."
He sighed: from his alpaca jacket
He pressed into her hand a packet,
"Sorry, to-day it's all I'm rich in -
A chicken sandwich from the kitchen."
Then bowed and left her after she
Had thanked him with sweet dignity.

She pushed the package out of sight,
Within her bag and closed it tight;
But by and bye I saw her go
To where thick laurel bushes grow,
And there behind that leafy screen,
Thinking herself by all unseen,
That sandwich! How I saw her grab it,
And gulp it like a starving rabbit!

Thinks I: Is all that talk a bluff -
Their dukes and kings and courtly stuff:
The way she ate, why one would say
She hadn't broken fast all day.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

1:25 min read
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Robert William Service

Robert William Service was a poet and writer sometimes referred to as the Bard of the Yukon He is best-known for his writings on the Canadian North including the poems The Shooting of Dan McGrew The Law of the Yukon and The Cremation of Sam McGee His writing was so expressive that his readers took him for a hard-bitten old Klondike prospector not the later-arriving bank clerk he actually was Robert William Service was born 16 January 1874 in Preston England but also lived in Scotland before emigrating to Canada in 1894 Service went to the Yukon Territory in 1904 as a bank clerk and became famous for his poems about this region which are mostly in his first two books of poetry He wrote quite a bit of prose as well and worked as a reporter for some time but those writings are not nearly as well known as his poems He travelled around the world quite a bit and narrowly escaped from France at the beginning of the Second World War during which time he lived in Hollywood California He died 11 September 1958 in France Incidentally he played himself in a movie called The Spoilers starring John Wayne and Marlene Dietrich more…

All Robert William Service poems | Robert William Service Books

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