War, the Liberator, and Other Pieces/The Ghost of Youth

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IN the cold black hours of the evening time
That finish the empty day,
When a man can sit and dream again
Of the joys he threw away.
When the curtain of things is lifted up
And the naked life we see,
There comes the ghost of a boy, long dead,
And sits by the fire with me.

A boy with the clean young hope of life
Aflame in his ardent eyes,
And oh, the contempt that he feels for me
And my hoary blasphemies;
Sitting there by my dying fire
His eyes light up and glow,
And he talks to me as I used to talk
Oh God! how long ago.

The ghost of the boy that I was then
Sits still and talks to me
With his passionate love of a half-seen truth
And his sweet absurdity.
All that I thought I could nearly see
All that I used to hear,
Before the curtain was rent and I saw
The naked life too clear.

Ere I saw too clear the awful fear
And the horror of emptiness,
Ere I knew too well that the pit of hell
Was a pit that was bottomless,
And knew there was never a king in hell,
In heaven never a throne,
Only the void and a shivering soul,
That drifts by itself alone.