At Vanity Fair, as we bow and smile,
   As we talk of the opera (after the weather),
As we chat of fashion, and tint, and style,
   We know we are playing a part together.
You know that the mirth I wear I borrow ;
I know your smile is a mask of sorrow.
We know that under the silks and laces,
And back of beautiful, laughing faces,
Lie secret trouble and dark despair
                         At Vanity Fair.

At Vanity Fair, on dress parade,
   Our colors are bright and our sabers gleaming,
But you know my uniform's worn and frayed,
   And I know your weapons, despite their seeming,
Are dull and worthless, and badly battered ;
That close inspection will show how tattered
And stained are the banners that flaunt above us ;
That comrades hate, while they swear they love us ;
That robed like Pleasure walks gaunt-eyed Care
                         At Vanity Fair.

At Vanity Fair, as we strive for place,
   As we push, and jostle, and crowd, and hurry,
We know the result is not worth the race--
   We know the prize is not worth the worry ;
That in fighting for self we must wound each other ;
That much of our gain means loss for another ;
That the crown of bay-leaves fades while it presses
The brow of the victor--with thorns, not caresses ;
That honors are empty and worthless to wear,
                         At Vanity Fair.

Yet at Vanity Fair, as we pass along,
   We meet brave hearts that are worth the knowing,
'Mong poor paste jewels that deck the throng
   We see a solitaire sometimes glowing ;
We find grand souls under robes of fashion ;
'Neath light demeanors lurk strength and passion ;
And fair, fine Honor and god-like Resistance
In halls of pleasure may have existence.
And we find pure altars and shrines of prayer
                        At Vanity Fair.                                              --Ella Wheeler's "Poems."

The San Franciscan I.17 (May 1884): 10.

Courtesy of John M. Freiermuth.

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