The Voice of the Bar

by George Albert Leddy

Twas payday – the boys were all gathered
At Dugan’s saloon; for ‘twas there,
In that “Gambling Hell,” as they called it;
Though the sign read “The Grizzly Bear”;
Where the gang from the boy in his twenties,
To the old, grisly, bearded and gray;
Up from the underground coal mines
Would gather each night to be gay.

The room, it was scented with liquor,
And dimmed with the smoke of the weed;
And rough with the voice of a miner
Who bragged of some terrible deed.
When a voice, like the rumble of thunder,
Caused each ruffian to shrink in affright;
As the bar took the form of a demon,
And roared, “I am speaker tonight!”

“You must listen to me!” the Bar thundered;
“For years, I have listened to you!
You thought me a friend, good and faithful;
And I’ve stood by you well, it is true.
Why, I knew your grisly ancestors;
I remember the day of your birth;
How they boasted and bragged of their offspring;
‘Twas I who knew well of your worth.

“I swore that my slave I would make you;
You’d toil, and I’d capture the gold;
And that oath I have kept, never failing;
I’ve held them, the young and the old.
I’ve watched them grow-up from the cradle;
I wait ‘till they pass by my door;
I hold out a glass of my liquor:
‘Just one, Boy; just one,’ I implore.

“At first, he hesitates, but I press him;
I urge him, ‘till I make him think
That he won’t be a man like his daddy,
Until he has learned how to drink.
One drink, then my heartless-breast holds him;
One drink, and my cursed work is done.
Then I sneer as I list’ to your boasting;
I sneer, for I’ve captured your son.

“I’ll tell you of crimes I have witnessed;
All done by agent ‘Old Rum;’
Whom I have trained ‘till he knows well as me,
The man with the gold from the bum.
The man with the gold, how I greet him,
And deal-out the best that I hold;
‘Till his brain is a wreck; his eyes blinded;
And my coffers are banking his gold.

“Though his pockets are empty, he lingers;
He pleads for ‘One-more,’ then he’ll go.
Then I scoff at the fate of the drunkard,
Who through me has fallen so low.
But I care not for him, and I cast him
A wreck on life’s wild, raging sea;
Where the cursed, famished waves of wrecked manhood
Will carry my victim from me.

“The sweetheart, the mother, the children;
Who cursed me in hate from the start;
I get them; I hold them; I starve them;
And rejoice when I’ve broken their hearts.
I’ve gazed on the face of the widow,
And the children who feel the disgrace;
‘Till their poor hearts, from sorrow, cease beating;
And they pass to the last resting place.

“Why, I’ve seen men losing their fortunes;
By dice or by shuffling the deck.
I’ve seen men lay dying from gunshot;
I’ve seen men strung-up by the neck;
I’ve seen men cut-down in fair battle;
I’ve seen daggers thrust from behind;
I’ve seen loving brother, kill brother;
When friend, Rum, had stricken them blind.

“Now I gaze on a desolate churchyard,
Where my victims I’ve sent, one by one;
And I sneer like a miserable hell-fiend
At the damnable work I have done.”

Then the room, it grew dark, and the monster
Once again took the form as of old;
With it’s agent, “Old Rum,” standing promptly;
Waiting and watching for gold.

Then the smoke from the rear told the miners:
The Bar had been conquered, at last;
For a Power, more true, had invaded;
It burns to the ground, quick and fast.
And there every grizzly, old miner
Stood still in that liberty light;
Now freed from that damnable demon
By the lesson they’d learned that night.