To Ladies Of A Certain Age

Ye ancient Maids, who ne'er must prove
The early joys of youth and love,
Whose names grim Fate (to whom 'twas given,
When marriages were made in heaven)
Survey'd with unrelenting scowl,
And struck them from the muster-roll;
Or set you by, in dismal sort,
For wintry bachelors to court;
Or doom'd to lead your faded lives,
Heirs to the joys of former wives;
Attend! nor fear in state forlorn,
To shun the pointing hand of scorn,
Attend, if lonely age you dread,
And wish to please, or wish to wed.

When beauties lose their gay appearance,
And lovers fall from perseverance,
When eyes grow dim and charms decay,
And all your roses fade away,
First know yourselves; lay by those airs,
Which well might suit your former years,
Nor ape in vain the childish mien,
And airy follies of sixteen.

We pardon faults in youth's gay flow,
While beauty prompts the cheek to glow,
While every glance has power to warm,
And every turn displays a charm,
Nor view a spot in that fair face,
Which smiles inimitable grace.

But who, unmoved with scorn, can see
The grey coquette's affected glee,
Her ambuscading tricks of art
To catch the beau's unthinking heart,
To check th' assuming fopling's vows,
The bridling frown of wrinkled brows;
Those haughty airs of face and mind,
Departed beauty leaves behind.

Nor let your sullen temper show
Spleen louring on the envious brow,
The jealous glance of rival rage,
The sourness and the rust of age.
With graceful ease, avoid to wear
The gloom of disappointed care:
And oh, avoid the sland'rous tongue,
By malice tuned, with venom hung,
That blast of virtue and of fame,
That herald to the court of shame;
Less dire the croaking raven's throat,
Though death's dire omens swell the note.

Contented tread the vale of years,
Devoid of malice, guilt and fears;
Let soft good humour, mildly gay,
Gild the calm evening of your day,
And virtue, cheerful and serene,
In every word and act be seen.
Virtue alone with lasting grace,
Embalms the beauties of the face,
Instructs the speaking eye to glow,
Illumes the cheek and smooths the brow,
Bids every look the heart engage,
Nor fears the wane of wasting age.

Nor think these charms of face and air,
The eye so bright, the form so fair,
This light that on the surface plays,
Each coxcomb fluttering round its blaze,
Whose spell enchants the wits of beaux,
The only charms, that heaven bestows.
Within the mind a glory lies,
O'erlook'd and dim to vulgar eyes;
Immortal charms, the source of love,
Which time and lengthen'd years improve,
Which beam, with still increasing power,
Serene to life's declining hour;
Then rise, released from earthly cares,
To heaven, and shine above the stars.

Thus might I still these thoughts pursue,
The counsel wise, and good, and true,
In rhymes well meant and serious lay,
While through the verse in sad array,
Grave truths in moral garb succeed:
Yet who would mend, for who would read?

But when the force of precept fails,
A sad example oft prevails.
Beyond the rules a sage exhibits,
Thieves heed the arguments of gibbets,
And for a villain's quick conversion,
A pillory can outpreach a parson.

To thee, Eliza, first of all,
But with no friendly voice I call.
Advance with all thine airs sublime,
Thou remnant left of ancient time!
Poor mimic of thy former days,
Vain shade of beauty, once in blaze!
We view thee, must'ring forth to arms
The veteran relics of thy charms;
The artful leer, the rolling eye,
The trip genteel, the heaving sigh,
The labour'd smile, of force too weak,
Low dimpling in th' autumnal cheek,
The sad, funereal frown, that still
Survives its power to wound or kill;
Or from thy looks, with desperate rage,
Chafing the sallow hue of age,
And cursing dire with rueful faces,
The repartees of looking-glasses.

Now at tea-table take thy station,
Those shambles vile of reputation,
Where butcher'd characters and stale
Are day by day exposed for sale:
Then raise the floodgates of thy tongue,
And be the peal of scandal rung;
While malice tunes thy voice to rail,
And whispering demons prompt the tale--
Yet hold thy hand, restrain thy passion,
Thou cankerworm of reputation;
Bid slander, rage and envy cease,
For one short interval of peace;
Let other's faults and crimes alone,
Survey thyself and view thine own;
Search the dark caverns of thy mind,
Or turn thine
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"To Ladies Of A Certain Age" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2019. Web. 15 Sep. 2019. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/24140/to-ladies-of-a-certain-age>.

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