L'Escargot D'Or

A poem by Robert William Service

Chez Moi, Montparnasse,

April 1914. The same evening.

To-day is an anniversary. A year ago to-day I kicked over an office stool and came to Paris thinking to make a living by my pen. I was twenty then, and in my pocket I had twenty pounds. Of that, my ten sous are all that remain. And so to-night I am going to spend them, not prudently on bread, but prodigally on beer.

As I stroll down the Boul' Mich' the lingering light has all the exquisite tenderness of violet; the trees are in their first translucent green; beneath them the lamps are lit with purest gold, and from the Little Luxembourg comes a silver jangle of tiny voices. Taking the gay side of the street, I enter a cafe. Although it isn't its true name, I choose to call my cafe -

L'Escargot D'Or

O Tavern of the Golden Snail!
Ten sous have I, so I'll regale;
Ten sous your amber brew to sip
(Eight for the bock and two the tip),
And so I'll sit the evening long,
And smoke my pipe and watch the throng,
The giddy crowd that drains and drinks,
I'll watch it quiet as a sphinx;
And who among them all shall buy
For ten poor sous such joy as I?
As I who, snugly tucked away,
Look on it all as on a play,
A frolic scene of love and fun,
To please an audience of One.

O Tavern of the Golden Snail!
You've stuff indeed for many a tale.
All eyes, all ears, I nothing miss:
Two lovers lean to clasp and kiss;
The merry students sing and shout,
The nimble garcons dart about;
Lo! here come Mimi and Musette
With: "S'il vous plait, une cigarette?"
Marcel and Rudolf, Shaunard too,
Behold the old rapscallion crew,
With flowing tie and shaggy head . . .
Who says Bohemia is dead?
Oh shades of Murger! prank and clown,
And I will watch and write it down.

O Tavern of the Golden Snail!
What crackling throats have gulped your ale!
What sons of Fame from far and near
Have glowed and mellowed in your cheer!
Within this corner where I sit
Banville and Coppée clashed their wit;
And hither too, to dream and drain,
And drown despair, came poor Verlaine.
Here Wilde would talk and Synge would muse,
Maybe like me with just ten sous.
Ah! one is lucky, is one not?
With ghosts so rare to drain a pot!
So may your custom never fail,
O Tavern of the Golden Snail!

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