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My Rival

by Rudyard Kipling, 1919

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 colour 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 “mashes”),
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 for ever 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!

Published in Rudyard Kipling's Verse: Inclusive Edition, 1885-1918

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