My Rival

by Rudyard Kipling


I go to concert, party, ball―
     What profit is in these?
I sit alone against the wall
     And strive to look at ease.
The incense that is mine by right
     They burn before Her shrine;
And thatís because Iím seventeen
     And she is forty-nine.
I cannot check my girlish blush,
     My colour comes and goes.
I redden to my finger-tips,
     And sometimes to my nose.
But she is white where white should be,
     And red where red should shine.
The blush that flies at seventeen
      Is fixed at forty-nine.
I wish I had her constant cheek:
     I wish that I could sing
All sorts of funny little songs,
      Not quite the proper thing.
Iím very gauche and very shy,
      Her jokes arenít in my line;
And, worst of all, Iím seventeen
     While She is forty-nine.
The young men come, the young men go,
     Each pink and white and neat,
Sheís older than their mothers, but
     They grovel at Her feet
They walk beside Her rickshaw-wheels―
     None ever walk by mine;
And thatís because Iím seventeen
     And she is forty-nine.
She rides with half a dozen men
     (She calls them "boys" and "mashes")
I trot along the Mall alone;
     My prettiest frocks and sashes
Donít help to fill my programme-card,
      And vainly I repine
From ten to two A.M. Ah me!
      Would I were forty-nine.
She calls me "darling," "pet," and "dear,"
     And "sweet retiring maid."
Iím always at the back, I know―
     She puts me in the shade.
She introduces me to men―
     "Cast" lovers, I opine;
For sixty takes to seventeen,
     Nineteen to forty-nine.
But even She must older grow
     And end Her dancing days,
She canít go on for ever so
     At concerts, balls, and plays.
One ray of priceless hope I see
      Before my footsteps shine;
Just think, that Sheíll be eighty-one
      When I am forty-nine!
Rudyard Kipling | Classic Poems
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