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Belle Of The Ball, The


Years, years ago, ere yet my dreams
Had been of being wise and witty,
Ere I had done with writing themes,
Or yawn'd o'er this infernal Chitty;
Years, years ago, while all my joy
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
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;
And when 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 'twas Venus from her isle,
And wonder'd where she'd left her sparrows.
 
She talk'd, of politics or prayers;
Of Southey's prose, or Wordsworth's sonnets;
Of daggers or of dancing bears,
Of battles, or the last new bonnets;
By candle-light, at twelve o'clock,
To me it matter'd not a tittle,
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,
I wrote them for 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?
 
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,
Oh! 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 sketch'd; 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 Catalani jealous;
She touch'd the organ; I could stand
For hours and hours to blow the bellows.
 
She kept an album, too, at home,
Well fill'd with all an album's glories;
Paintings of butterflies, and Rome,
Patterns for trimming, Persian stories;
Soft songs to Julia's cockatoo,
Fierce odes to Famine and to Slaughter;
And autographs of Prince Leboo,
And recipes for elder water.
 
And she was flatter'd, worshipp'd, bored;
Her steps were watch'd, her dress was noted;
Her poodle dog was quite adored,
Her sayings were extremely quoted.
She laugh'd, and every heart was glad,
As if the taxes were abolish'd;
She frown'd, and every look was sad,
As if the Opera were demolished.
 
She smil'd 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 oh!
How sweetly all her notes were folded!
 
Our love was like most 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 roll'd by;
We met again four summers 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 ballroom belle,
But only, Mrs. Something Rogers.
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Submitted on August 03, 2020

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Winthrop Mackworth Praed

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