Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE BELLE OF THE BALL, by WINTHROP MACKWORTH PRAED

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE BELLE OF THE BALL, by                 Poet's Biography
First Line: Years, years ago, ere yet my dreams
Last Line: But only mrs. -- something -- rogers!
Variant Title(s): The Belle Of The Ball-room
Subject(s): Disappointment; Women

YEARS, years ago, ere yet my dreams
Had been of being wise or witty,
Ere I had done with writing themes,
Or yawned o'er this infernal Chitty, --
Years, years ago, while all my joys
Were in my fowling-piece and filly;
In short, while I was yet a boy,
I fell in love with Laura Lilly.

I saw her at the county ball;
There, when the sounds of flute and fiddle
Gave signal sweet in that old hall
Of hands across and down the middle,
Hers was the subtlest spell by far
Of all that sets young hearts romancing:
She was our queen, our rose, our star;
And then she danced, -- O Heaven! her dancing.

Dark was her hair; her hand was white;
Her voice was exquisitely tender;
Her eyes were full of liquid light;
I never saw a waist so slender;
Her every look, her every smile,
Shot right and left a score of arrows:
I thought 't was Venus from her isle,
And wondered where she'd left her sparrows.

She talked of politics or prayers,
Of Southey's prose or Wordsworth's sonnets,
Of danglers or of dancing bears,
Of battles or the last new bonnets;
By candle-light, at twelve o'clock, --
To me it mattered not a tittle, --
If those bright lips had quoted Locke,
I might have thought they murmured Little.

Through sunny May, through sultry June
I loved her with a love eternal;
I spoke her praises to the moon,
I wrote them to the Sunday Journal.
My mother laughed; I soon found out
That ancient ladies have no feeling:
My father frowned; but how should gout
See any happiness in kneeling?

She was the daughter of a dean, --
Rich, fat, and rather apoplectic;
She had one brother just thirteen,
Whose color was extremely hectic;
Her grandmother for many a year
Had fed the parish with her bounty;
Her second cousin was a peer,
And lord-lieutenant of the county.

But titles and the three-per-cents,
And mortgages, and great relations,
And India bonds, and tithes and rents,
O, what are they to love's sensations?
Black eyes, fair forehead, clustering locks, --
Such wealth, such honors Cupid chooses;
He cares as little for the stocks
As Baron Rothschild for the muses.

She sketched; the vale, the wood, the beach,
Grew lovelier from her pencil's shading:
She botanized; I envied each
Young blossom in her boudoir fading:
She warbled Handel; it was grand, --
She made the Catilina jealous:
She touched the organ; I could stand
For hours and hours to blow the bellows.

She kept an album too, at home,
Well filled with all an album's glories, --
Paintings of butterflies and Rome,
Patterns for trimmings, Persian stories,
Soft songs to Julia's cockatoo,
Fierce odes to famine and to slaughter,
And autographs of Prince Leeboo,
And recipes for elder-water.

And she was flattered, worshipped, bored;
Her steps were watched, her dress was noted;
Her poodle-dog was quite adored;
Her sayings were extremely quoted.
She laughed, -- and every heart was glad,
As if the taxes were abolished;
She frowned, -- and every look was sad,
As if the opera were demolished.

She smiled on many just for fun, --
I knew that there was nothing in it;
I was the first, the only one,
Her heart had thought of for a minute.
I knew it, for she told me so,
In phrase which was divinely moulded;
She wrote a charming hand, -- and O,
How sweetly all her notes were folded!

Our love was most like other loves, --
A little glow, a little shiver,
A rosebud and a pair of gloves,
And "Fly Not Yet," upon the river;
Some jealousy of some one's heir,
Some hopes of dying broken-hearted;
A miniature, a lock of hair,
The usual vows, -- and then we parted.

We parted: months and years rolled by;
We met again four summer's after.
Our parting was all sob and sigh,
Our meeting was all mirth and laughter!
For in my heart's most secret cell
There had been many other lodgers;
And she was not the ball-room's belle,
But only Mrs. -- Something -- Rogers!

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