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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

The Skeleton in the Cupboard

By Frederick Locker-Lampson (1821–1895)

THE CHARACTERS of great and small

Come ready-made, we can’t bespeak one;

Their sides are many, too—and all

(Except ourselves) have got a weak one.

Some sanguine people love for life;

Some love their hobby till it flings them;

And many love a pretty wife

For love of the éclat she brings them!

We all have secrets: you have one

Which may not be your charming spouse’s;

We all lock up a skeleton

In some grim chamber of our houses;

Familiars who exhaust their days

And nights in probing where our smart is,

And who, excepting spiteful ways,

Are quiet, confidential “parties.”

We hug the phantom we detest,

We rarely let it cross our portals:

It is a most exacting guest,—

Now are we not afflicted mortals?

Your neighbor Gay, that joyous wight,—

As Dives rich, and bold as Hector,—

Poor Gay steals twenty times a night,

On shaking knees, to see his spectre.

Old Dives fears a pauper fate,

And hoarding is his thriving passion;

Some piteous souls anticipate

A waistcoat straiter than the fashion.

She, childless, pines,—that lonely wife,—

And hidden tears are bitter shedding;

And he may tremble all his life,

And die—but not of that he’s dreading.

Ah me, the World! how fast it spins!

The beldams shriek, the caldron bubbles;

They dance, and stir it for our sins,

And we must drain it for our troubles.

We toil, we groan,—the cry for love

Mounts upward from this seething city;

And yet I know we have above

A Father, infinite in pity.

When Beauty smiles, when sorrow weeps,

When sunbeams play, when shadows darken,

One inmate of our dwelling keeps

A ghastly carnival—but hearken!

How dry the rattle of those bones!—

The sound was not to make you start meant—

Stand by! your humble servant owns

The Tenant of this Dark Apartment.