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Arthur Quiller-Couch, comp.  The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse.  1922.
 
Aetate XIX
By Herman Charles Merivale (1839–1906)
 
NINETEEN! of years a pleasant number;
          And it were well
If on his post old Time would slumber
          For Isabel:
 
If he would leave her, fair and girlish,        5
          Untouch’d of him,
Forgetting once his fashions churlish
          Just for a whim!
 
But no, not he; ashore, aboard ship,
          Sleep we, or wake,        10
He lays aside his right of lordship
          For no man’s sake;
 
But all untiring girds his loins up
          For great and small;
And as a miser sums his coins up,        15
          Still counts us all.
 
As jealous as a nine-days’ lover,
          He will not spare,
’Spite of the wealth his presses cover,
          One silver hair;        20
 
But writes his wrinkles far and near in
          Life’s every page,
With ink invisible, made clear in
          The fire of age.
 
Child! while the treacherous flame yet shines not        25
          On thy smooth brow,
Where even Envy’s eye divines not
          That writing now,
 
In this brief homily I read you
          There should be found        30
Some wholesome moral, that might lead you
          To look around,
 
And think how swift, as sunlight passes
          Into the shade,
The pretty picture in your glass is        35
          Foredoomed to fade.
 
But, ’faith, the birthday genius quarrels
          With moral rhyme,
And I was never good at morals
          At any time;        40
 
While with ill omens to alarm you
          ’Twere vain to try;
To show how little mine should harm you,
          Your mother ’s by!
 
And what can Time hurt me, I pray, with,        45
          If he insures
Such friends to laugh regrets away with
          As you—and yours?
 
 
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