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- The Home Book of Verse, Volume 1 - 90/114 -

But look for you in vain!

Ellen Mackay Hutchinson Cortissoz [?-1933]


"My birth-day" - what a different sound That word had in my youthful ears! And how, each time the day comes round, Less and less white its mark appears! When first our scanty years are told, It seems like pastime to grow old; And, as Youth counts the shining links That Time around him binds so fast, Pleased with the task, he little thinks How hard that chain will press at last. Vain was the man, and false as vain, Who said - "were he ordained to run His long career of life again, He would do all that he had done."

Ah, 'tis not thus the voice, that dwells In sober birth-days, speaks to me; Far otherwise - of time it tells Lavished unwisely, carelessly; Of counsel mocked: of talents, made Haply for high and pure designs, But oft, like Israel's incense, laid Upon unholy, earthly shrines; Of nursing many a wrong desire; Of wandering after Love too far, And taking every meteor-fire That crossed my pathway, for a star. All this it tells, and, could I trace The imperfect picture o'er again, With power to add, retouch, efface The lights and shades, the joy and pain, How little of the past would stay! How quickly all should melt away - All - but that Freedom of the Mind, Which hath been more than wealth to me; Those friendships, in my boyhood twined, And kept till now unchangingly; And that dear home, that saving-ark, Where Love's true light at last I've found, Cheering within, when all grows dark, And comfortless, and stormy round!

Thomas Moore [1779-1852]

SONNET On His Having Arrived To The Age of Twenty-Three

How soon hath Time, the subtle thief of youth, Stolen on his wing my three-and-twentieth year! My hasting days fly on with full career, But my late spring no bud or blossom shew'th. Perhaps my semblance might deceive the truth That I to manhood am arrived so near; And inward ripeness doth much less appear, That some more timely-happy spirits endu'th. Yet, be it less or more, or soon or slow, It shall be still in strictest measure even To that same lot, however mean or high, Toward which Time leads me, and the will of Heaven: All is, if I have grace to use it so, As ever in my great Task-master's eye.

John Milton [1608-1674]


'Tis time this heart should be unmoved, Since others it hath ceased to move: Yet, though I cannot be beloved, Still let me love!

My days are in the yellow leaf; The flowers and fruits of love are gone; The worm, the canker, and the grief

Are mine alone!

The fire that on my bosom preys Is lone as some volcanic isle; No torch is kindled at its blaze - A funeral pile.

The hope, the fear, the jealous care, The exalted portion of the pain And power of love, I cannot share, But wear the chain.

But 'tis not thus - and 'tis not here - Such thoughts should shake my soul, nor now, Where glory decks the hero's bier, Or binds his brow.

The sword, the banner, and the field, Glory and Greece, around me see! The Spartan, borne upon his shield, Was not more free.

Awake! (not Greece - she is awake!) Awake, my spirit! Think through whom Thy life-blood tracks its parent lake, And then strike home!

Tread those reviving passions down, Unworthy manhood I - unto thee Indifferent should the smile or frown Of beauty be.

If thou regret'st thy youth, why live? The land of honorable death Is here: - up to the field, and give Away thy breath!

Seek out - less often sought than found - A soldier's grave, for thee the best; Then look around, and choose thy ground, And take thy rest.

George Gordon Byron [1788-1824]

GROWING GRAY "On a l'age de son caeur." A. D'Houdetot

A little more toward the light; - Me miserable! Here's one that's white; And one that's turning; Adieu to song and "salad days;" My Muse, let's go at once to Jay's, And order mourning.

We must reform our rhymes, my Dear, - Renounce the gay for the severe, - Be grave, not witty; We have, no more, the right to find That Pyrrha's hair is neatly twined, - That Chloe's pretty.

Young Love's for us a farce that's played; Light canzonet and serenade No more may tempt us; Gray hairs but ill accord with dreams; From aught but sour didactic themes Our years exempt us.

Indeed! you really fancy so? You think for one white streak we grow At once satiric? A fiddlestick! Each hair's a string To which our ancient Muse shall sing A younger lyric.

The heart's still sound. Shall "cakes and ale" Grow rare to youth because we rail At schoolboy dishes? Perish the thought! 'Tis ours to chant When neither Time nor Tide can grant Belief with wishes.

Austin Dobson [1840-1921]


The wisest of the wise Listen to pretty lies And love to hear'em told. Doubt not that Solomon Listened to many a one, - Some in his youth, and more when he grew old.

I never was among The choir of Wisdom's song, But pretty lies loved I As much as any king, When youth was on the wing, And (must it then be told?) when youth had quite gone by.

Alas! and I have not The pleasant hour forgot When one pert lady said, "O Walter! I am quite Bewildered with affright! I see (sit quiet now) a white hair on your head!"

Another more benign Snipped it away from mine, And in her own dark hair Pretended it was found . . . She leaped, and twirled it round . . . Fair as she was, she never was so fair!

The Home Book of Verse, Volume 1 - 90/114

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