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

William Makepeace Thackeray 1811–63

The Age of Wisdom


HO! pretty page, with the dimpled chin,

That never has known the barber’s shear,

All your wish is woman to win;

This is the way that boys begin:

Wait till you come to forty year.

Curly gold locks cover foolish brains;

Billing and cooing is all your cheer—

Sighing, and singing of midnight strains,

Under Bonnybell’s window panes:

Wait till you come to forty year.

Forty times over let Michaelmas pass;

Grizzling hair the brain doth clear;

Then you know a boy is an ass,

Then you know the worth of a lass,

Once you have come to forty year.

Pledge me round; I bid ye declare,

All good fellows whose beards are gray,

Did not the fairest of the fair

Common grow and wearisome ere

Ever a month was pass’d away?

The reddest lips that ever have kiss’d,

The brightest eyes that ever have shone,

May pray and whisper and we not list,

Or look away and never be miss’d,

Ere yet ever a month is gone.

Gillian ’s dead! God rest her bier—

How I loved her twenty years syne!

Marian ’s married; but I sit here,

Alone and merry at forty year,

Dipping my nose in the Gascon wine.