When I was young and bold and strong,
Oh, right was right, and wrong was wrong!
My plume on high, my flag unfurled,
I rode away to right the world.
"Come out, you dogs, and fight!" said I,
And wept there was but once to die.
But I am old; and good and bad
Are woven in a crazy plaid.
I sit and say, "The world is so;
And he is wise who lets it go.
A battle lost, a battle won--
The difference is small, my son."
Inertia rides and riddles me;
The which is called Philosophy.
Woman wants monogamy;
Man delights in novelty.
Love is woman's moon and sun;
Man has other forms of fun.
Woman lives but in her lord;
Count to ten, and man is bored.
With this the gist and sum of it,
What earthly good can come of it?
Authors and actors and artists and such
Never know nothing, and never know much.
Sculptors and singers and those of their kidney
Tell their affairs from Seattle to Sydney.
Playwrights and poets and such horses' necks
Start off from anywhere, end up at sex.
Diarists, critics, and similar roe
Never say nothing, and never say no.
People Who Do Things exceed my endurance;
God, for a man that solicits insurance!
There was a rose that faded young;
I saw its shattered beauty hung
Upon a broken stem.
I heard them say, "What need to care
With roses budding everywhere?"
I did not answer them.
There was a bird, brought down to die;
They said, "A hundred fill the sky--
What reason to be sad?"
There was a girl, whose lover fled;
I did not wait, the while they said,
"There's many another lad."
When I am old, and comforted,
And done with this desire,
With Memory to share my bed
And Peace to share my fire,
I'll comb my hair in scalloped bands
Beneath my laundered cap,
And watch my cool and fragile hands
Lie light upon my lap.
And I will have a sprigged gown
With lace to kiss my throat;
I'll draw my curtain to the town,
And hum a purring note.
And I'll forget the way of tears,
And rock, and stir my tea.
But oh, I wish those blessed years
Were further than they be!
Never love a simple lad,
Guard against a wise,
Shun a timid youth and sad,
Hide from haunted eyes.
Never hold your heart in pain
For an evil-doer;
Never flip it down the lane
To a gifted wooer.
Never love a loving son,
Nor a sheep astray;
Gather up your skirts and run
From a tender way.
Never give away a tear,
Never toss a pine;
Should you heed my words, my dear,
You're no blood of mine!
In the pathway of the sun,
In the footsteps of the breeze,
Where the world and sky are one,
He shall ride the silver seas,
He shall cut the glittering wave.
I shall sit at home, and rock;
Rise, to heed a neighbor's knock;
Brew my tea, and snip my thread;
Bleach the linen for my bed.
They will call him brave.
Her mind lives in a quiet room,
A narrow room, and tall,
With pretty lamps to quench the gloom
And mottoes on the wall.
There all the things are waxen neat
And set in decorous lines;
And there are posies, round and sweet,
And little, straightened vines.
Her mind lives tidily, apart
From cold and noise and pain,
And bolts the door against her heart,
Out wailing in the rain.
Oh, I can smile for you, and tilt my head,
And drink your rushing words with eager lips,
And paint my mouth for you a fragrant red,
And trace your brows with tutored finger-tips.
When you rehearse your list of loves to me,
Oh, I can laugh and marvel, rapturous-eyed.
And you laugh back, nor can you ever see
The thousand little deaths my heart has died.
And you believe, so well I know my part,
That I am gay as morning, light as snow,
And all the straining things within my heart
You'll never know.
Oh, I can laugh and listen, when we meet,
And you bring tales of fresh adventurings, --
Of ladies delicately indiscreet,
Of lingering hands, and gently whispered things.
And you are pleased with me, and strive anew
To sing me sagas of your late delights.
Thus do you want me -- marveling, gay, and true,
Nor do you see my staring eyes of nights.
And when, in search of novelty, you stray,
Oh, I can kiss you blithely as you go ....
And what goes on, my love, while you're away,
You'll never know.
The day that I was christened--
It's a hundred years, and more!--
A hag came and listened
At the white church door,
A-hearing her that bore me
And all my kith and kin
Considerately, for me,
While some gave me corals,
And some gave me gold,
And porringers, with morals
The hag stood, buckled
In a dim gray cloak;
Stood there and chuckled,
Spat, and spoke:
"There's few enough in life'll
Be needing my help,
But I've got a trifle
For your fine young whelp.
I give her sadness,
And the gift of pain,
The new-moon madness,
And the love of rain."
And little good to lave me
In their holy silver bowl
After what she gave me--
Rest her soul!
Say my love is easy had,
Say I'm bitten raw with pride,
Say I am too often sad--
Still behold me at your side.
Say I'm neither brave nor young,
Say I woo and coddle care,
Say the devil touched my tongue--
Still you have my heart to wear.
But say my verses do not scan,
And I get me another man!
Why is it, when I am in Rome,
I'd give an eye to be at home,
But when on native earth I be,
My soul is sick for Italy?
And why with you, my love, my lord,
Am I spectacularly bored,
Yet do you up and leave me--then
I scream to have you back again?