Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

Herbert Edwin Clarke b. 1852

The Age

A PALE and soul-sick woman with wan eyes

Fixed on their own reflection in the glass,

Uncertain lips half-oped to say “Alas,

Naked I stand between two mysteries,

Finding my wisdom naught who am most wise.”

Behind, the shapes and fiery shadows pass

Of fervent life; no joy in them she has,

But gazing on herself she moans and sighs.

And yet of knowledge she doth hold the key,

And Power and Pleasure are her hand-maidens,

And all past years have given of their best

To make her rich and great and strong and free,

Who stands in slack and listless impotence,

Marvelling sadly at her own unrest.

Her children cluster round about her knees;

The hoarded wealth and wisdom of the Dead

Of all past time they have inherited,

And still within their hands it doth increase;

Yet in their eyes in mirrored her dis-peace,

Her weariness within their hearts is shed;

Her dreary sorrow weighs each drooping head,

And each soul sickens with her fell disease.

Beneath their feet lie many broken toys,

They are too old to laugh, too wise to pray,

Or look to God for wage or chastisement:

They have known all sorrows, wearied of all joys,

Fed all desires, and none hath said them nay;

Two things alone they lack, Peace and Content.