The Old Stage Queen
by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Back in the box by the curtains shaded,
She sits alone by the house unseen;
Her eye is dim, her cheek is faded,
She who was once 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;
Oh, 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 the past's bright splendour --
When life seemed worth living, and love 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 past lies under a funeral pall.
Her day is dead and her star descended
Never to rise or shine again;
Her reign is over -- her Queenship ended --
A new name is sounded and sung by men.
All the glitter and glow and splendour,
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,
Then all unnoticed she passes out.
Source:Poems of Pleasure
Gay And Bird, 22 Bedford Street, Strand, London