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.