For One Night Only

        (A Tragedy)

I met him in a crowd;

   As if with care 'twas weighted,

His shapely back was bowed,

   His brow was corrugated.

I asked him, "Why so pale?

   What grief your soul has cankered?"

And gleaned his painful tale

   Over a friendly tankard.

"Once," the said wight began,

   "I knew not what the blues meant,

I was a genial man,

   And never shirked amusement.

I shot, I rode, I rinked,

   I trod the mazy measure,

My life, to be succinct,

   Was one long round of pleasure.

"In those delightful days

   I do not mind confessing

That, if I had a craze,

   It was for faultless dressing.

One night- it serves to show

   How labor omnia vincit

I tied a perfect bow;

   I've not been happy since it.

"I worked with watchful eye,

   With fingers swift but wary,

It seemed a decent tie,

   But not extraordinary.

But when at length I gazed,

   To put the final clip in,

I staggered back amazed,

   Ejaculating 'Rippin'!"

"Oh, had I but the pen

   That serves the inspired poet,

I'd try to picture then,

   With proper force and glow, it.

The billowy waves of white,

   The folds, the spick-and-span knot;

Were I a bard, I might –

   But as it is, I cannot.

"Suffice it to observe

   That on minute inspection

It showed in every curve

   The hall-mark of perfection.

The sort of tie which you

   When wrapped in sweetest sleep oc-

casionally view;

   A tie to mark an epoch.

"That night no peer I owned,

   I carried all before me.

Society" – he moaned –

   "United to adore me.

Whenever I passed by,

   Men stopped their conversation,

Drank in that Perfect Tie

   In silent adoration.

"Since then the striking feat

   (Such dreams the ambitious male lure)

I've striven to repeat

   Result: completest failure.

Though toiling, as I say,

   As much as blood and flesh'll,

The bows I tie to-day

   Are good, but nothing special.

"So now my fellow man

   I shun, no matter who 'tis.

As far as mortal can,

   I cut my social duties.

I seldom eat or rest,

   I'm gloomy, haggard, mirthless.

To one who's known the best,

   All other things are worthless."

First published in Punch, June 10, 1903.