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The Tale Of Honour


It was an honour I had not

Expected, to be sure.

The Devil asked me in and offered

Me his best liqueur.

 

A candle gilt his profile.

Puffing smoke rings in a haze,

With moist eyes Mephistopheles

Upon me fixed gaze.

 

His mien, though tinged with autumn grief,

Was proud and cheerful too.

He cried: "In vino veritas -

I shall be frank with you!

 

"I can no longer bear the yoke

Of cunning and deceit.

here's to my other-worldly warmth

And worldly woes we meet!

 

"Long, long ago I came to earth

And for a joke, you see,

Took worldly Truth to be my life

But she cuckolded me.

 

"My honour to avenge I vowed

In jealousy and pain.

I trampled others' honour down

But mine I've not regained.

 

"I thought in exploits to excel.

I died in many a fray.

Though worthy causes I upheld

No honours came my way.

 

"Then in the street one day I showed

A sign I had prepared.

"Here is a man without a scrap

Of honour, 'it declared.

 

"But, strangely, no one looked askance!

With interest I was viewed

And everywhere men doffed their hats:

'No honour? Good for you!'

 

"A gentleman embraced me: 'Brother,

You too?! Man alive!'

Two pretty ladies said: 'Tomorrow

Come to tea at five!'

 

"Amazing! Such attention rare

All did to me devote.

Kings, ministers, court ladies fair

Fond letters to me wrote.

 

"Behold me rolling now in gold.

A man of place and pride!

A thief, a shameless rogue - I know -

But… honoured far and wide!"

 

He paused, our glasses he refilled

And raised a toast with glee

As, blowing rings of smoke, he fixed

His bright green eyes on me.

 

1923

 


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