Ballade Of The Absent Guest

A poem by Richard Le Gallienne

Friends whom to-night once more I greet,
Most glad am I with you to be,
And, as I look around, I meet
Many a face right good to see;
But one I miss - ah! where is he? -
Of merry eye and sparkling jest,
Who used to brim my glass for me;
I drink - in what? - the Absent Guest.

Low lies he in his winding-sheet,
By organized hypocrisy
Hurled from his happy wine-clad seat,
Stilled his kind heart and hushed his glee;
His very name daren't mention we,
That good old friend who brought such zest,
And set our tongues and spirits free:
I drink - in what? - the Absent Guest.

No choice to-night 'twixt "dry" or "sweet,"
'Twixt red or white, 'twixt Rye, - ah! me -
Or Scotch - and think! we live to see't -
No whispered word, nor massive fee,
Nor even influenza plea,
Can raise a bubble; but, as best
We may, we make our hollow spree:
I drink - in what? - the Absent Guest.


ENVOI

Friends, good is coffee, good is tea,
And water has a charm unguessed -
And yet - that brave old deity!
I drink - in tears - the Absent Guest.

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