Ballade by the Fire
Edwin Arlington Robinson

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.


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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