Charles Harpur

23 January 1813 – 10 June 1868 / Windsor, New South Wales

The Drunkard

Disease was lurking in the cup!
Disastrous folly mantling there!
For promised joys he quaffed it up—
And his were ruin and despair!
Yes—so deceived he tasted first,
And fashion the delusion nurst,
Till with the texture of his life
It wove a warp of madness, agony, and strife.

The festive bowl!—to that he owes
Those drops of shame which now bedew
His burning brows—the hell of woes
His haggard spirit rushing through!
Young, innocent, he took the road
That leads to honor’s bright abode;
But joined, unwarned, upon the way
A bacchanalian troop—there stationed to betray.

Oh, could he but recall the past!
Oh, could he be what he had been!
The pearls of mental promise, cast
Away for riot’s joys obscene,
Could he reclaim! and knew his soul
To execrate, as now, the bowl—
That voice which sang to his brave youth
High hopes, and glorious aims, were still a voice of truth.

Oh what like self contempt can blast
The lofty hope, the wish refined?
In bitter mockery, at the “last
Infirmity of noble mind”
It laughs—a laugh in which despair
And wild defiance mingled are:
And not even madness can exempt
The votary of the bowl from grinning self-contempt.

Yet, could he but forbear to raise
The hellward-hastening draught again,
Time yet might quench the lurid blaze,
The fiery serpent in his brain!
Friendship might take his hand once more,
Fond love caress him as before;
And gentle peace, and comfort mild,
Smile on his future years, as on his youth they smiled.
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