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Best Famous Down And Out Poems

Here is a collection of the all-time best famous Down And Out poems. This is a select list of the best famous Down And Out poetry. Reading, writing, and enjoying famous Down And Out poetry (as well as classical and contemporary poems) is a great past time. These top poems are the best examples of down and out poems.

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Written by Robert William Service | Create an image from this poem

The Ballad Of The Northern Lights

 One of the Down and Out--that's me.
Stare at me well, ay, stare! Stare and shrink--say! you wouldn't think that I was a millionaire.
Look at my face, it's crimped and gouged--one of them death-mask things; Don't seem the sort of man, do I, as might be the pal of kings? Slouching along in smelly rags, a bleary-eyed, no-good bum; A knight of the hollow needle, pard, spewed from the sodden slum.
Look me all over from head to foot; how much would you think I was worth? A dollar? a dime? a nickel? Why, I'm the wealthest man on earth.
No, don't you think that I'm off my base.
You'll sing a different tune If only you'll let me spin my yarn.
Come over to this saloon; Wet my throat--it's as dry as chalk, and seeing as how it's you, I'll tell the tale of a Northern trail, and so help me God, it's true.
I'll tell of the howling wilderness and the haggard Arctic heights, Of a reckless vow that I made, and how I staked the Northern Lights.

Written by Robert William Service | Create an image from this poem

The Man From Eldorado

 He's the man from Eldorado, and he's just arrived in town,
 In moccasins and oily buckskin shirt.
He's gaunt as any Indian, and pretty nigh as brown; He's greasy, and he smells of sweat and dirt.
He sports a crop of whiskers that would shame a healthy hog; Hard work has racked his joints and stooped his back; He slops along the sidewalk followed by his yellow dog, But he's got a bunch of gold-dust in his sack.
He seems a little wistful as he blinks at all the lights, And maybe he is thinking of his claim And the dark and dwarfish cabin where he lay and dreamed at nights, (Thank God, he'll never see the place again!) Where he lived on tinned tomatoes, beef embalmed and sourdough bread, On rusty beans and bacon furred with mould; His stomach's out of kilter and his system full of lead, But it's over, and his poke is full of gold.
He has panted at the windlass, he has loaded in the drift, He has pounded at the face of oozy clay; He has taxed himself to sickness, dark and damp and double shift, He has labored like a demon night and day.
And now, praise God, it's over, and he seems to breathe again Of new-mown hay, the warm, wet, friendly loam; He sees a snowy orchard in a green and dimpling plain, And a little vine-clad cottage, and it's--Home.
II He's the man from Eldorado, and he's had a bite and sup, And he's met in with a drouthy friend or two; He's cached away his gold-dust, but he's sort of bucking up, So he's kept enough to-night to see him through.
His eye is bright and genial, his tongue no longer lags; `His heart is brimming o'er with joy and mirth; He may be far from savory, he may be clad in rags, `But to-night he feels as if he owns the earth.
Says he: "Boys, here is where the shaggy North and I will shake; I thought I'd never manage to get free.
I kept on making misses; but at last I've got my stake; There's no more thawing frozen muck for me.
I am going to God's Country, where I'll live the simple life; I'll buy a bit of land and make a start; I'll carve a little homestead, and I'll win a little wife, And raise ten little kids to cheer my heart.
" They signified their sympathy by crowding to the bar; They bellied up three deep and drank his health.
He shed a radiant smile around and smoked a rank cigar; They wished him honor, happiness and wealth.
They drank unto his wife to be--that unsuspecting maid; They drank unto his children half a score; And when they got through drinking very tenderly they laid The man from Eldorado on the floor.
III He's the man from Eldorado, and he's only starting in To cultivate a thousand-dollar jag.
His poke is full of gold-dust and his heart is full of sin, And he's dancing with a girl called Muckluck Mag.
She's as light as any fairy; she's as pretty as a peach; She's mistress of the witchcraft to beguile; There's sunshine in her manner, there is music in her speech, And there's concentrated honey in her smile.
Oh, the fever of the dance-hall and the glitter and the shine, The beauty, and the jewels, and the whirl, The madness of the music, the rapture of the wine, The languorous allurement of a girl! She is like a lost madonna; he is gaunt, unkempt and grim; But she fondles him and gazes in his eyes; Her kisses seek his heavy lips, and soon it seems to him He has staked a little claim in Paradise.
"Who's for a juicy two-step?" cries the master of the floor; The music throbs with soft, seductive beat.
There's glitter, gilt and gladness; there are pretty girls galore; There's a woolly man with moccasins on feet.
They know they've got him going; he is buying wine for all; They crowd around as buzzards at a feast, Then when his poke is empty they boost him from the hall, And spurn him in the gutter like a beast.
He's the man from Eldorado, and he's painting red the town; Behind he leaves a trail of yellow dust; In a whirl of senseless riot he is ramping up and down; There's nothing checks his madness and his lust.
And soon the word is passed around--it travels like a flame; They fight to clutch his hand and call him friend, The chevaliers of lost repute, the dames of sorry fame; Then comes the grim awakening--the end.
IV He's the man from Eldorado, and he gives a grand affair; There's feasting, dancing, wine without restraint.
The smooth Beau Brummels of the bar, the faro men, are there; The tinhorns and purveyors of red paint; The sleek and painted women, their predacious eyes aglow-- Sure Klondike City never saw the like; Then Muckluck Mag proposed the toast, "The giver of the show, The livest sport that ever hit the pike.
" The "live one" rises to his feet; he stammers to reply-- And then there comes before his muddled brain A vision of green vastitudes beneath an April sky, And clover pastures drenched with silver rain.
He knows that it can never be, that he is down and out; Life leers at him with foul and fetid breath; And then amid the revelry, the song and cheer and shout, He suddenly grows grim and cold as death.
He grips the table tensely, and he says: "Dear friends of mine, I've let you dip your fingers in my purse; I've crammed you at my table, and I've drowned you in my wine, And I've little left to give you but--my curse.
I've failed supremely in my plans; it's rather late to whine; My poke is mighty weasened up and small.
I thank you each for coming here; the happiness is mine-- And now, you thieves and harlots, take it all.
" He twists the thong from off his poke; he swings it o'er his head; The nuggets fall around their feet like grain.
They rattle over roof and wall; they scatter, roll and spread; The dust is like a shower of golden rain.
The guests a moment stand aghast, then grovel on the floor; They fight, and snarl, and claw, like beasts of prey; And then, as everybody grabbed and everybody swore, The man from Eldorado slipped away.
V He's the man from Eldorado, and they found him stiff and dead, Half covered by the freezing ooze and dirt.
A clotted Colt was in his hand, a hole was in his head, And he wore an old and oily buckskin shirt.
His eyes were fixed and horrible, as one who hails the end; The frost had set him rigid as a log; And there, half lying on his breast, his last and only friend, There crouched and whined a mangy yellow dog.
Written by Robert William Service | Create an image from this poem


 Oh, I was born a lyric babe
(That last word is a bore -
It's only rhyme is astrolabe,"
Whose meaning I ignore.
) From cradlehood I lisped in numbers, Made jingles even in my slumbers.
Said Ma: "He'll be a bard, I know it.
" Said Pa: "let's hoe he will outgrow it.
" Alas! I never did and so A dreamer and a drone was I, Who persevered in want and woe His misery to versify.
Yea, I was doomed to be a failure (Old Browning rhymes that last with "pale lure"): And even starving in the gutter, My macaronics I would utter.
Then in a poor, cheap book I crammed, And to the public maw I tossed My bitter Dirges of the Damned, My Lyrics of the Lost.
"Let carping critic flay and flout My Ditties of the Down and Out - "There now," said I, "I've done with verse, My love, my weakness and my curse.
" Then lo! (As I would fain believe, Before they crown, the fates would shame us) I went to sleep one bitter eve, And woke to find that I was famous.
And so the sunny sequels were a Gay villa on the Riviera, A bank account, a limousine, a Life patterned dolce e divina.
Oh, yes, my lyric flight is flighty; My muse is much more mite than mighty: But poetry has been my friend, And rhyming's saved me in the end.
Written by A R Ammons | Create an image from this poem

An Improvisation For Angular Momentum

 Walking is like
imagination, a
single step
dissolves the circle
into motion; the eye here
and there rests
on a leaf,
gap, or ledge,
everything flowing
except where
sight touches seen:
stop, though, and
reality snaps back
in, locked hard,
forms sharply
themselves, bushbank,
dentree, phoneline,
definite, fixed,
the self, too, then
caught real, clouds
and wind melting
into their directions,
breaking around and
over, down and out,
motions profound,
alive, musical!

Perhaps the death mother like the birth mother
does not desert us but comes to tend
and produce us, to make room for us
and bear us tenderly, considerately,
through the gates, to see us through,
to ease our pains, quell our cries,
to hover over and nestle us, to deliver
us into the greatest, most enduring
peace, all the way past the bother of
beyond the finework of frailty,
the mishmash house of the coming & going,
creation's fringes,
the eddies and curlicues
Written by Robert William Service | Create an image from this poem


 To smite Apollo's lyre I am unable;
Of loveliness, alas! I cannot sing.
My lot it i, across the tavern table, To start a chorus to the strumming string.
I have no gift to touch your heart to pity; I have no power to ring the note of pain: All I can do is pipe a pot-house ditty, Or roar a Rabelaisian refrain.
Behold yon minstrel of the empty belly, Who seeks to please the bored and waiting throng, Outside the Opera with ukulele, And raucous strains of syncopated song.
His rag-time mocks their eager hearts a-hunger For golden voices, melody divine: Yet .
throw a penny to the ballad-monger; Yet .
listen idly to this song of mine.
For with a humble heart I clank rhyme's fetters, And bare my buttocks to the critic knout; A graceless hobo in the Land of Letters, Piping my ditties of the down-and-out.
A bar-room bard .
so if a coin you're flinging, Pay me a pot, and let me dream and booze; To stars of scorn my dour defiance ringing, With battered banjo and a strumpet Muse.

Written by Guillaume Apollinaire | Create an image from this poem



In the end you are tired of this ancient world 
Shepherd oh Eiffel Tower the herd of bridges is bleating this morning 

You've had enough of living in Greek and Roman antiquity 

Here even the cars look antique 
Only religion has stayed new religion 
Has stayed simple like the hangars at Port-Aviation 

You alone in Europe are not ancient oh Christianity 
The most modern European is you Pope Pius X 
And shame keeps you whom the windows are watching 
From entering a church and going to confession this morning 
You read the flyers catalogues posters that shout out 
There's the morning's poetry and as for prose there are the newspapers 
There are 25 cent tabloids full of crimes 
Celebrity items and a thousand different headlines 

This morning I saw a pretty street whose name I forget 
New and clean it was the sun's herald 
Executives workers and beautiful stenos 
Cross it four times a day from Monday morning to Saturday evening 
In the morning the siren moans three times 
An angry bell barks at noon 
The inscriptions on the signs and walls 
The billboards the notices squawk like parrots 
I love the charm of this industrial street 
In Paris between the Rue Aumont-Thiéville and the Avenue des Ternes 

There's the young street and you're still just a little boy 
Your mother dresses you only in blue and white 
You're very pious and along with your oldest friend René Dalize 
You like nothing better than the rituals of the Church 
It is nine o'clock the gas is low and blue you sneak out of the dormitory 
You pray all night in the school's chapel 
While in eternal adorable amethyst depths 
The flaming glory of Christ revolves forever 
It's the beautiful lily we all cultivate 
It's the torch with red hair the wind can't blow out 
It's the pale rosy son of the grieving mother 
It's the tree always leafy with prayers 
It's the paired gallows of honor and eternity 
It's the star with six branches 
It's God who dies on Friday and comes back to life on Sunday 
It's Christ who climbs to the sky better than any pilot 
He holds the world record for altitude 

Apple Christ of the eye 
Twentieth pupil of the centuries he knows how to do it 
And changed into a bird this century like Jesus climbs into the air 
Devils in their depths raise their heads to look at him 
They say he's copying Simon Magus in Judea 
They shout if he's so good at flying let's call him a fugitive 
Angels gyre around the handsome gymnast 
Icarus Enoch Elijah Apollonius of Tyana 
Hover around the first airplane 
They scatter sometimes to let the ones carrying the Eucharist pass 
Those priests that are forever ascending carrying the host 
Finally the plane lands without folding its wings 
And the sky is full of millions of swallows 
Crows falcons owls come in full flight 
Ibises flamingos storks come from Africa 
The Roc Bird made famous by storytellers and poets 
Soars holding in its claws Adam's skull the first head 
The eagle swoops screaming from the horizon 
And from America the little hummingbird comes 
From China the long agile peehees have come 
They have only one wing and fly in pairs 
Now here's the dove immaculate spirit 
Escorted by the lyre-bird and the spotted peacock 
The phoenix that self-engendering pyre 
For an instant hides all with its burning ash 
Sirens leaving the dangerous straits 
Arrive singing beautifully all three 
And all eagle phoenix peehees from China 
Hang out with the flying Machine 

Now you're walking in Paris all alone in the crowd 
Herds of buses amble by you mooing 
The anguish of love tightens your throat 
As if you were never going to be loved again 
If you lived in the old days you would enter a monastery 
You are ashamed when you catch yourself saying a prayer 
You make fun of yourself and your laughter crackles like the fire of Hell 
The sparks of your laughter gild the abyss of your life 
It is a painting hung in a dark museum 
And sometimes you go look at it close up 

Today you're walking in Paris the women have turned blood-red 
It was and I wish I didn't remember it was at the waning of beauty 
Surrounded by fervent flames Our Lady looked at me in Chartres 
The blood of your Sacred Heart drenched me in Montmartre 
I am sick from hearing blissful phrases 
The love I suffer from is a shameful sickness 
And the image that possesses you makes you survive in insomnia and anguish 
It is always near you this image that passes 

Now you're on the shores of the Mediterranean 
Under the lemon trees that are in flower all year long 
You go boating with some friends 
One is from Nice there's one from Menton and two from La Turbie 
We look with dread at the octopus of the deep 
And among the seaweed fish are swimming symbols of the Savior 

You are in the garden of an inn just outside of Prague 
You feel so happy a rose is on the table 
And you observe instead of writing your story in prose 
The Japanese beetle sleeping in the heart of the rose 

Terrified you see yourself drawn in the agates of Saint Vitus 
You were sad enough to die the day you saw yourself 
You look like Lazarus thrown into a panic by the daylight 
The hands on the clock in the Jewish district go counter-clockwise 
And you too are going slowly backwards in your life 
Climbing up to Hradcany and listening at night 
To Czech songs being sung in taverns 

Here you are in Marseilles in the middle of watermelons 

Here you are in Coblenz at the Giant Hotel 

Here you are in Rome sitting under a Japanese medlar tree 

Here you are in Amsterdam with a young woman you think is beautiful she is ugly 
She is engaged to a student from Leyden 
There they rent rooms in Latin Cubicula Locanda 
I remember I spent three days there and just as many in Gouda 

You are in Paris getting interrogated 
They're arresting you like a criminal 

You made some miserable and happy journeys 
Before you became aware of lies and of age 
You suffered from love at twenty and at thirty 
I've lived like a madman and I've wasted my time 
You don't dare look at your hands anymore and all the time I want to cry 
Over you over the women I love over everything that's terrified you 

Your tear-filled eyes watch the poor emigrants 
They believe in God they pray the women breast-feed the children 
They fill the waiting-room at the St.
Lazaire station with their smell They have faith in their star like the Magi They hope to earn money in Argentina And go back to their country after making their fortune One family is carrying a red eiderdown the way you carry your heart The eiderdown and our dreams are equally unreal Some of these emigrants stay here and put up at the Rue des Rosiers or the Rue des Ecouffes in hovels I've seen them often at night they're out for a breath of air in the street And like chess pieces they rarely move They are mostly Jews the wives wearing wigs Sit still bloodless at the back of store-fronts You're standing in front of the counter at a sleazy bar You're having coffee for two sous with the down-and-out At night you're in a big restaurant These women aren't mean but they do have their troubles All of them even the ugliest has made her lover suffer She is a Jersey policeman's daughter Her hands that I hadn't seen are hard and chapped I feel immense pity for the scars on her belly I humble my mouth now to a poor hooker with a horrible laugh You are alone morning is approaching Milkmen clink their cans in the streets Night withdraws like a half-caste beauty Ferdine the false or thoughtful Leah And you drink this alcohol burning like your life Your life that you drink like an eau-de-vie You walk towards Auteuil you want to go home on foot To sleep surrounded by your fetishes from the South Seas and from Guinea They are Christs in another form and from a different creed They are lower Christs of dim expectations Goodbye Goodbye Sun neck cut from Alcools, 1913 Translation copyright Charlotte Mandell