My Rival

My_Rival_Illustration

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 that’s because I’m seventeen
And She is forty-nine.

I cannot check my girlish blush,
My color 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.
I’m very gauche and very shy,
Her jokes aren’t in my line;
And, worst of all, I’m seventeen
While She is forty-nine.

The young men come, the young men go
Each pink and white and neat,
She’s older than their mothers, but
They grovel at Her feet.
They walk beside Her ‘rickshaw wheels—
None ever walk by mine;
And that’s because I’m seventeen
And She is forty-nine.

She rides with half a dozen men,
(She calls them “boys” and “mashers”)
I trot along the Mall alone;
My prettiest frocks and sashes
Don’t 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.”
I’m 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 can’t go on forever so
At concerts, balls and plays.
One ray of priceless hope I see
Before my footsteps shine;
Just think, that She’ll be eighty-one
When I am forty-nine.

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