THE OLD STAGE QUEEN

Back in her box by the curtains shaded
    She sits alone, by the house unseen;
Her eye is dim and her cheek is faded,
    She who once was the people's queen.

The curtain rolls up, and she sees before her
    A vision of beauty and youth and grace.
Ah! no wonder all hearts adore her,
    Silver-throated and fair of face.

Out of her box she leans and listens:
    O! is it with pleasure or with despair
That her thin cheek pales, and her dim eye glistens
    While that fresh young voice sings the grand old air?

She is back again in her past's bright splendour,
    When life was worth living and love was a truth;
Ere Time had told her she must surrender
    Her double dower of fame and youth.

It is she herself who stands there singing
    To that sea of faces, that shines and stirs;
And the cheers on cheers that go up ringing
    And rousing the echoes, are hers, all hers!

Just for one moment the sweet delusion
    Quickens her pulses, and blurs her sight,
And wakes within her that wild confusion
    Of joy that is anguish and fierce delight.

Then the curtain goes down, and the lights are gleaming
    Brightly o'er circle and box and stall;
She starts like a sleeper who wakes from dreaming:
    Her youth lies under Time's funeral pall.

Her day is dead, and her star descended
    Never to rise or to shine again;
Her reign is over, her queenship ended--
    A new name is sounded and sung by men.

All the glitter and glow and splendor,
    All the glory of that lost day,
With the friends that seemed true and the love that seemed tender,
    Why, what is it all but a dead bouquet?

She rises to go; has the night turned colder?
    The new queen answers to call and shout;
And the old queen looks back over her shoulder
    As, all unnoticed, she passes out.

Kingdom of love and How Salvator won by Ella Wheeler Wilcox.
Chicago, W.B. Conkey company [1902].


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