The twinklin', winkin', blinkin' stars
That besprinkle me roof at night;
When I camp out back on the lonesome track,
It's them that knows me right.
I confess to 'em all, both great and small;
To Orion, The Cross, an' the Twins;
For they sort o' appeal, an' make a man feel
The amazin' amount of 'is sins.
The years roll by, an' a man MUST die,
An' I've seen most o' me days;
But age ain't brought the remorse it ought,
Nor taught me to mend me ways;
For when you've bin to yer neck in sin --
An' the sort of sin that's nice --
Afore you change to tracks that's strange,
You like to consider twice.
An' where's life's fun if you 'ave to shun
The things that make life bright;
That's wot I say to meself in the day,
But I change me toon at night.
For it ain't no use. When a man's bin loose
In 'is ways (though 'e never owns)
Oft in a bright, still, starry night
A FEAR gits into 'is bones.
A kind o' fear that ain't quite clear
Of somethin' 'e can't make out;
That makes 'im smell the fires of 'ell,
An' lie, an' think about
The things 'e's done when 'e wus young,
An' the things that might 'ave bin,
Of wot 'e is, an' wot 'e wus,
An' the "fleetin' joy o' sin."
An' when yer young an' yer life's ahead,
An' you count yer chums be the score,
You seldom think that when yer dead
Ther' might be somethin' more.
But as years go an' life gits slow,
An' you feel the end draw near,
Alone at night in the pale starlight;
It's then you feel THE FEAR.
An' so' I lie an' watch the sky
With its thousand shinin' lights.
As they wink an' blink, I lie an' think
Through the silent summer nights.
Think of me life. Of the joy an' strife,
Of the good I've done, an' the bad,
Of the cash gone through an' the girls I knew,
An' the seas of drink I've 'ad.
An' the only sound fer miles around
Is the cracklin' fire o' the camp;
An' all alone, to the stars, I own
That I've bin a reg'lar scamp.
An' the stars look down an' seem to frown,
Through a kind o' shimmery haze;
An' I tell 'em straight if it ain't too late
I'll try an' mend me ways.
Tell 'em I'll try an' put sin by,
An' be a dif'rent man;
An' take more 'eed of the life I lead,
An' live the best I can.
An' then the least faint light in the east
Shows dim, as the night wears on;
Up comes the sun; the night is done;
An' me resolution's gone.
First published in The Critic, 25 June 1898