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Ballad by the Fire

by
 Slowly I smoke and hug my knee, 
The while a witless masquerade 
Of things that only children see 
Floats in a mist of light and shade: 
They pass, a flimsy cavalcade, 
And with a weak, remindful glow, 
The falling embers break and fade, 
As one by one the phantoms go.
Then, with a melancholy glee To think where once my fancy strayed, I muse on what the years may be Whose coming tales are all unsaid, Till tongs and shovel, snugly laid Within their shadowed niches, grow By grim degrees to pick and spade, As one by one the phantoms go.
But then, what though the mystic Three Around me ply their merry trade? -- And Charon soon may carry me Across the gloomy Stygian glade? -- Be up, my soul! nor be afraid Of what some unborn year may show; But mind your human debts are paid, As one by one the phantoms go.
ENVOY Life is the game that must be played: This truth at least, good friend, we know; So live and laugh, nor be dismayed As one by one the phantoms go.

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