THE LADY AND THE DAME

So thou hast the art, good dame, thou swearest,
  To keep Time's perishing touch at bay
From the roseate splendor of the cheek so tender,
  And the silver threads from the gold away;
And the tell-tale years that have hurried by us
  Shall tiptoe back, and, with kind good-will,
They shall take their traces from off our faces,
  If we will trust to thy magic skill.

Thou speakest fairly; but if I listen
  And buy thy secret and prove its truth,
Hast thou the potion and magic lotion
  To give me also the heart of youth?
With the cheek of rose and the eye of beauty,
  And the lustrous locks of life's lost prime,
Wilt thou bring thronging each hope and longing
  That made the glory of that dead Time?

When the sap in the trees sets young buds bursting,
  And the song of the birds fills the air like spray,
Will rivers of feeling come once more stealing
  From the beautiful hills of the far-away?
Wilt thou demolish the tower of reason
  And fling forever down into the dust,
The caution time brought me, the lesson life taught me,
  And put in their places my old sweet trust?

If Time's footprint from my brow is driven,
  Canst thou, too, take with thy subtle powers
The burden of thinking, and let me go drinking
  The careless pleasures of youth's bright hours?
If silver threads from my tresses vanish,
  If a glow once more in my pale cheek gleams,
Wilt thou slay duty and give back the beauty
  Of days untroubled by aught but dreams?

When the soft, fair arms of the siren Summer
  Encircles the earth in their languorous fold,
Will vast, deep oceans of sweet emotions
  Surge through my veins as they surged of old?
Canst thou bring back from a day long vanished
  The leaping pulse and the boundless aim?
I will pay thee double for all thy trouble,
  If thou wilt restore all these, good dame.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

From a typewritten, signed draft in Yale University collections. Courtesy of Lori DeCarlo


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