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Poem by Charles Mackay
The Dream of the Reveller
Around the board the guests were met, the lights above them beaming, And in their cups, replenish'd oft, the ruddy wine was streaming; Their cheeks were flush'd their eyes were bright, their hearts with pleasure bounded, The song was sung, the toast was given, and loud the revel sounded. I drain'd a goblet with the rest, and cried, " Away with sorrow! Let us be happy for to-day; what care we for to-morrow?" But as I spoke, my sight grew dim, and slumber deep came o'er me, And, 'mid the whirl of mingling tongues, this vision pass'd before me. Methought I saw a demon rise: he held a mighty bicker, Whose burnish'd sides ran brimming o'er with floods of burning liquor; Around him press'd a clamorous crowd, to taste this liquor, greedy, But chiefly came the poor and sad, the suffering and the needy; All those oppress'd by grief or debt, the dissolute, the lazy, Blear-eyed old men and reckless youths, and palsied women crazy; " Give, give!" they cried, " Give, give us drink, to drown all thought of sorrow; If we are happy for to-day, we care not for to-morrow!" The first drop warm'd their shivering skins, and drove away their sadness; The second lit their sunken eyes, and fill'd their souls with gladness; The third drop made them shout and roar, and play each furious antic; The fourth drop boil'd their very blood; and the fifth drop drove them frantic. " Drink!" said the Demon, " Drink your fill! drink of these waters mellow; Ч They'll make your eye-balls sear and dull, and turn your white skins yellow; They'll fill your homes with care and grief, and clothe your backs with tatters; They'll fill your hearts with evil thoughts; but never mind! Ч what matters? " Though virtue sink, and reason fail, and social ties dissever, I'll be your friend in hour of need, and find you homes for ever; For I have built three mansions high, three strong and goodly houses, To lodge at last each jolly soul who all his life carouses. The first , it is a spacious house, to all but sots appalling, Where, by the parish bounty fed, vile, in the sunshine crawling, The worn-out drunkard ends his days, and eats the dole of others, A plague and burthen to himself, an eyesore to his brothers. " The second is a lazar-house, rank, fetid, and unholy; Where, smitten by diseases foul and hopeless melancholy, The victims of potations deep, pine on the couch of sadness, Some calling Death to end their pain, and others wrought to madness: The third and last is black and high, the abode of guilt and anguish, And full of dungeons deep and fast, where death-doom'd felons languish; So drain the cup, and drain again! One of my goodly houses, Shall lodge at last each jolly soul who to the dregs carouses!" But well he knew Ч that Demon old Ч how vain was all his preaching, The ragged crew that round him flock'd were heedless of his teaching; Even as they heard his fearful words, they cried, with shouts of laughter, Ч " Out on the fool who mars to-day with thought of an hereafter! We care not for thy houses three; we live but for the present; And merry will we make it yet, and quaff our bumpers pleasant." Loud laugh'd the fiend to hear them speak, and, lifting high his bicker, " Body and soul are mine!" said he, " I'll have them both for liquor."
Charles Mackay's other poems:
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