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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
To a Lady
By Voltaire (1694–1778)
 
Translation of Edward Bruce Hamley

YOU wonder how time ne’er subdues
  (Though eighty years have left their chill)
My superannuated Muse,
  That hums a quavering measure still.
 
In wintry wolds a tuft of bloom        5
  Will sometimes through the snowdrifts smile,
Consoling nature in her gloom,
  But withering in a little while.
 
A bird will trill a chirping note,
  Though summer’s leaves and light be o’er,        10
But melody forsakes his throat—
  He sings the song of love no more.
 
’Tis thus I still my harp entune,
  Whose strings no more my touch obey;
’Tis thus I lift my voice, though soon        15
  That voice will silent be for aye.
 
Tibullus to his mistress said,
  “I would thus breathe my last adieu,
My eyes still with your glances fed,
  My dying hand caressing you.”        20
 
But when this world grows all remote,
  When with the life the soul must go,
Can yet the eye on Delia dote?
  The hand a lover’s touch bestow?
 
Death changes, as we pass his gate,        25
  What in our days of strength we knew:
Who would with joy anticipate
  At his last gasp love’s rendezvous?
 
And Delia, in her turn, no less
  Must pass into eternal night,        30
Oblivious of her loveliness,
  Oblivious of her youth’s delight.
 
We enter life, we play our part,
  We die—nor learn the reason here;
From out the unknown void we start,        35
  And whither bound?—God knows, my dear.
 
 
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