The Tavern Of Despair

Don Marquis

The wraiths of murdered hopes and loves
  Come whispering at the door,
Come creeping through the weeping mist
  That drapes the barren moor;
But we within have turned the key
  ‘Gainst Hope and Love and Care,
Where Wit keeps tryst with Folly, at
  The Tavern of Despair.

And we have come by divers ways
  To keep this merry tryst,
But few of us have kept within
  The Narrow Way, I wist;
For we are those whose ampler wits
  And hearts have proved our curse—
Foredoomed to ken the better things
  And aye to do the worse!

Long since we learned to mock ourselves;
  And from self-mockery fell

To heedless laughter in the face
  Of Heaven, Earth, and Hell.
We quiver ’neath, and mock, God’s rod;
  We feel, and mock, His wrath;
We mock our own blood on the thorns
  That rim the “Primrose Path.”

We mock the eerie glimmering shapes
  That range the outer wold,
We mock our own cold hearts because
  They are so dead and cold;
We flout the things we might have been
  Had self to self proved true,
We mock the roses flung away,
  We mock the garnered rue;

The fates that gibe have lessoned us;
  There sups to-night on earth
No madder crew of wastrels than
  This fellowship of mirth. . . .
(Of mirth . . . drink, fools!—nor let it flag
  Lest from the outer mist
Creep in that other company
  Unbidden to the tryst.

We’re grown so fond of paradox
  Perverseness holds us thrall,
So what each jester loves the best
  He mocks the most of all;
But as the jest and laugh go round,
  Each in his neighbor’s eyes
Reads, while he flouts his heart’s desire,
  The knowledge that he lies.

Not one of us but had some pearls
  And flung them to the swine,
Not one of us but had some gift—
  Some spark of fire divine—
Each might have been God’s minister
  In the temple of some art—
Each feels his gift perverted move
  Wormlike through his dry heart.

If God called Azrael to Him now
  And bade Death bend the bow
Against the saddest heart that beats
  Here on this earth below,
Not any sobbing breast would gain
  The guerdon of that barb—

The saddest ones are those that wear
  The jester’s motley garb.

Whose shout aye loudest rings, and whose
  The maddest cranks and quips—
Who mints his soul to laughter’s coin
  And wastes it with his lips—
Has grown too sad for sighs and seeks
  To cheat himself with mirth;
We fools self-doomed to motley are
  The weariest wights on earth!

But yet, for us whose brains and hearts
  Strove aye in paths perverse,
Doomed still to know the better things
  And still to do the worse,—
What else is there remains for us
  But make a jest of care
And set the rafters ringing, in
  Our Tavern of Despair?

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