The Great War

from War, The Liberator and Other Pieces, an electronic edition

The Ghost of Youth

IN the cold black hours of the evening time

That finish the empty day,

When a man can sit and dream again

Of the joys he threw away.

When the curtain of things is lifted up

And the naked life we see,

There comes the ghost of a boy, long dead,

And sits by the fire with me.

A boy with the clean young hope of life

Aflame in his ardent eyes,

And oh, the contempt that he feels for me

And my hoary blasphemies;

Sitting there by my dying fire

His eyes light up and glow,

And he talks to me as I used to talk

Oh God! how long ago.

The ghost of the boy that I was then

Sits still and talks to me

With his passionate love of a half-seen truth

And his sweet absurdity.

All that I thought I could nearly see

All that I used to hear,

Before the curtain was rent and I saw

The naked life too clear.

Ere I saw too clear the awful fear

And the horror of emptiness,

Ere I knew too well that the pit of hell

Was a pit that was bottomless,

And knew there was never a king in hell,

In heaven never a throne,

Only the void and a shivering soul,

That drifts by itself alone.