Posted by Barbara Barrett on December 16th, 2013
1. a drunkard; someone with an uncontrollable craving for alcoholic liquors
[origin: ca. 1844; slang; from dipsomania; New Latin, from Greek dipsa thirst + Late Latin mania]
I was a prince of China, lord of a million spears;
You were a soak in Brooklyn, shining the bar for beers.
I lolled on a throne of sapphire, you loafed in a dance-hall door;
My love was a Manchu princess, yours was a Harlem whore.
I slumbered on velvet couches, lulled by a fountain’s tune;
You snored on a broken camp cot in the back of Mike Shane’s saloon.
My friends were lords of the Indies, rulers of lands immense;
Your pals were the tout and the con man, the dip, the yegg and the fence.
I gambled with lands and armies, castles and crowns and thrones;
You risked your jack in the crap games and beefed when you dropped three bones.
I died ’neath the spears of the Tartars on a wild war-trampled ridge;
You went on a bum one evening and fell off the Brooklyn Bridge.
Yet down through the sweeping ages the ego’s tendrils twine,
Linking the prince to the beggar and the lordling to the swine.
And body is linked to body, though strange it is to say
That the I of some dim tomorrow is the I of yesterday.
But the soul wears many garments as is written in the stars,
And I that was prince of China, was the soak of the Brooklyn bars.
[from “Prince and Beggar”; this is the complete poem as it appears in The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 550 and Always Comes Evening; p. 77]