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The Ballad Of Touch-The-Button Nell

Beyond the Rocking Bridge it lies, the burg of evil fame,
The huts where hive and swarm and thrive the sisterhood of shame.
Through all the night each cabin light goes out and then goes in,
A blood-red heliograph of lust, a semaphore of sin.
From Dawson Town, soft skulking down, each lewdster seeks his mate;
And glad and bad, kimono clad, the wanton women wait.
The Klondike gossips to the moon, and sinners o'er its bars;
Each silent hill is dark and chill, and chill the patient stars.
Yet hark! upon the Rocking Bridge a bacchanalian step;
A whispered: "Come," the skirl of some hell-raking demirep...

  * * * * * * * * * * *

They gave a dance in Lousetown, and the Tenderloin was there,
The girls were fresh and frolicsome, and nearly all were fair.
They flaunted on their back the spoil of half-a-dozen towns;
And some they blazed in gems of price, and some wore Paris gowns.
The voting was divided as to who might be the belle;
But all opined, the winsomest was Touch-the-Button Nell.

Among the merry mob of men was one who did not dance,
But watched the "light fantastic" with a sour sullen glance.
They saw his white teeth gleam, they saw his thick lips twitch;
They knew him for the giant Slav, one Riley Dooleyvitch.

"Oh Riley Dooleyvitch, come forth," quoth Touch-the-Button Nell,
"And dance a step or two with me - the music's simply swell,"
He crushed her in his mighty arms, a meek, beguiling witch,
"With you, oh Nell, I'd dance to hell," said Riley Dooleyvitch.

He waltzed her up, he waltzed her down, he waltzed her round the hall;
His heart was putty in her hands, his very soul was thrall.
As Antony of old succumbed to Cleopatra's spell,
So Riley Dooleyvitch bowed down to Touch-the-Button Nell.

"And do you love me true?" she cried. "I love you as my life."
"How can you prove your love?" she sighed. "I beg you be my wife.
I stake big pay up Hunker way; some day I be so rich;
I make you shine in satins fine," said Riley Dooleyvitch.

"Some day you'll be so rich," she mocked; "that old pipe-dream don't go.
Who gets an option on this kid must have some coin to show.
You work your ground. When Spring comes round, our wedding bells will ring.
I'm on the square, and I'll take care of all the gold you bring."

So Riley Dooleyvitch went back and worked upon his claim;
He ditched and drifted, sunk and stoped, with one unswerving aim;
And when his poke of raw moose-hide with dust began to swell,
He bought and laid it at the feet of Touch-the-Button Nell.

  * * * * * * * * * * *

Now like all others of her ilk, the lady had a friend,
And what she made my way of trade, she gave to him to spend;
To stake him in a poker game, or pay his bar-room score;
He was a pimp from Paris. and his name was Lew Lamore.

And so as Dooleyvitch went forth and worked as he was bid,
And wrested from the frozen muck the yellow stuff it hid,
And brought it to his Lady Nell, she gave him love galore -
But handed over all her gains to festive Lew Lamore.

  * * * * * * * * * * *

A year had gone, a weary year of strain and bloody sweat;
Of pain and hurt in dark and dirt, of fear that she forget.
He sought once more her cabin door: "I've laboured like a beast;
But now, dear one, the time has come to go before the priest.

"I've brought you gold - a hundred fold I'll bring you bye and bye;
But oh I want you, want you bad; I want you till I die.
Come, quit this life with evil rife - we'll joy while yet we can..."
"I may not wed with you," she said; "I love another man.

"I love him and I hate him so. He holds me in a spell.
He beats me - see my bruisèd brest; he makes my life a hell.
He bleeds me, as by sin and shame I earn my daily bread:
Oh cruel Fate, I cannot mate till Lew Lamore is dead!"

  * * * * * * * * * * *

The long lean flume streaked down the hill, five hundred feet of fall;
The waters in the dam above chafed at their prison wall;
They surged and swept, they churned and leapt, with savage glee and strife;
With spray and spume the dizzy flume thrilled like a thing of life.

"We must be free," the waters cried, and scurried down the slope;
"No power can hold us back," they roared, and hurried in their hope.
Into a mighty pipe they plunged, like maddened steers they ran,
And crashed out through a shar
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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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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    "The Ballad Of Touch-The-Button Nell" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 7 May 2021. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/32496/the-ballad-of-touch-the-button-nell>.

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