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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Nora Perry (1831–1896)

After the Ball

THEY sat and combed their beautiful hair,

Their long bright tresses, one by one,

As they laughed and talked in the chamber there,

After the revel was done.

Idly they talked of waltz and quadrille,

Idly they laughed like other girls

Who, over the fire, when all is still,

Comb out their braids and curls.

Robe of satin and Brussels lace,

Knots of flowers and ribbons too,

Scattered about in every place,—

For the revel is through.

And Maud and Madge in robes of white,

The prettiest night-gowns under the sun,

Stockingless, slipperless, sit in the night,

For the revel is done;

Sit and comb their beautiful hair,

Those wonderful waves of brown and gold,

Till the fire is out in the chamber there,

And the little bare feet are cold.

Then out of the gathering winter chill,

All out of the bitter St. Agnes weather,

While the fire is out and the house is still,

Maud and Madge together,—

Maud and Madge in robes of white,

The prettiest night-gowns under the sun,—

Curtained away from the chilly night,

After the revel is done,—

Float along in a splendid dream,

To a golden gittern’s tinkling tune,

While a thousand lustres shimmering stream

In a palace’s grand saloon.

Flashing of jewels and flutter of laces,

Tropical odors sweeter than musk,

Men and women with beautiful faces,

And eyes of tropical dusk;

And one face shining out like a star,

One face haunting the dreams of each,

And one voice, sweeter than others are,

Breaking in silvery speech,—

Telling through lips of bearded bloom

An old, old story over again,

As down the royal bannered room,

To the golden gittern’s strain,

Two and two they dreamily walk,

While an unseen spirit walks beside,

And all unheard in the lovers’ talk

He claimeth one for a bride.

O Maud and Madge, dream on together,

With never a pang of jealous fear!

For ere the bitter St. Agnes weather

Shall whiten another year,

Robed for the bridal, and robed for the tomb,

Braided brown hair and golden tress,

There’ll be only one of you left for the bloom

Of the bearded lips to press,—

Only one for the bridal pearls,

The robe of satin and Brussels lace,—

Only one to blush through her curls

At the sight of a lover’s face.

O beautiful Madge, in your bridal white,

For you the revel has just begun;

But for her who sleeps in your arms to-night

The revel of life is done!

But robed and crowned with your saintly bliss,

Queen of heaven and bride of the sun,

O beautiful Maud, you’ll never miss

The kisses another hath won.