Verse > Anthologies > Fuess and Stearns, eds. > The Little Book of Society Verse
Fuess and Stearns, comps.  The Little Book of Society Verse.  1922.
The Belle of the Ball-room
By Winthrop Mackworth Praed
YEARS—years ago—ere yet my dreams
  Had been of being wise or witty,—
Ere I had done with writing themes,
  Or yawn’d o’er this infernal Chitty;—
Years—years ago—while all my joy        5
  Was in my fowling-piece and filly,—
In short, while I was yet a boy,
  I fell in love with Laura Lily.
I saw her at the County Ball:
  There, when the sounds of flute and fiddle        10
Gave signal sweet in that old hall
  Of hands across and down the middle,
Hers was the subtlest spell by far
  Of all that set young hearts romancing;
She was our queen, our rose, our star;        15
  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!        20
Her every look, her every smile,
  Shot right and left a score of arrows;
I thought ’t was Venus from her isle,
  And wonder’d where she’d left her sparrows.
She talk’d—of politics or prayers,—        25
  Of Southey’s prose, or Wordsworth’s sonnets,
Of danglers—or of dancing bears,
  Of battles—or the last new bonnets,
By candlelight, at twelve o’clock,
  To me it matter’d not a tittle;        30
If those bright lips had quoted Locke,
  I might have thought they murmur’d Little.
Through sunny May, through sultry June,
  I loved her with a love eternal;
I spoke her praises to the moon,        35
  I wrote them to the Sunday Journal;
My mother laugh’d; I soon found out
  That ancient ladies have no feeling;
My father frown’d; but how should gout
  See any happiness in kneeling?        40
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        45
  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,        50
And India bonds, and tithes, and rents,
  Oh what are they to love’s sensations?
Black eyes, fair forehead, clustering locks—
  Such wealth, such honours, Cupid chooses;
He cares as little for the Stocks,        55
  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:        60
She warbled Handel; it was grand;
  She made the Catalani jealous:
She touched the organ; I could stand
  For hours and hours to blow the bellows.
She kept an album, too, at home,        65
  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,        70
And autographs of Prince Leboo,
  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,        75
  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.        80
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,        85
  In phrase which was divinely moulded;
She wrote a charming hand,—and oh!
  How sweetly all her notes were folded!
Our love was like most other loves;—
  A little glow, a little shiver,        90
A rose-bud, 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,        95
  The usual vows,—and then we parted.
We parted; months and months rolled by;
  We met again four summers after:
Our parting was all sob and sigh;
  Our meeting was all mirth and laughter:        100
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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