An Old Man To His Sleeping Young Bride
by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
As when the old moon lighted by the tender
And radiant crescent of the new is seen,
And for a moment's space suggests the splendor
Of what in its full prime it once has been,
So on my waning years you cast the glory
Of youth and pleasure, for a little hour;
And life again seems like an unread story,
And joy and hope both stir me with their power.
Can blooming June be fond of bleak December?
I dare not wait to hear my heart reply.
I will forget the question -- and remember
Alone the priceless feast spread for mine eye,
That radiant hair that flows across the pillows,
Like shimmering sunbeams over drifts of snow;
Those heaving breasts, like undulating billows,
Whose dangers or delights but Love can know,
That crimson mouth from which sly Cupid borrowed
The pattern for his bow, nor asked consent;
That smooth, unruffled brow which has not sorrowed --
All these are mine; should I not be content?
Yet are these treasures mine, or only lent me?
And who shall claim them when I pass away?
Oh, jealous Fate, to torture and torment me
With thoughts like these in my too fleeting day!
For while I gained the prize which all were seeking,
And won you with the ardor of my quest,
The bitter truth I know without your speaking --
You only let me love you at the best.
E'en while I lean and count my riches over,
And view with gloating eyes your priceless charms,
I know somewhere there dwells the unnamed lover
Who yet shall clasp you, willing, in his arms.
And while my hands stray through your clustering tresses,
And while my lips are pressed upon your own,
This unseen lover waits for such caresses
As my poor hungering clay has never known,
And when some day, between you and your duty
A green grave lies, his love shall make you glad,
And you shall crown him with your splendid beauty --
Ah, God! ah, God! 'tis this way men go mad!
Source:Custer And Other Poems
W. B. Conkey Company, Chicago