To a soubrette

by Eugene Field

'Tis years, soubrette, since last we met;
And yet--ah, yet, how swift and tender
My thoughts go back in time's dull track
To you, sweet pink of female gender!
I shall not say--though others may--
That time all human joy enhances;
But the same old thrill comes to me still
With memories of your songs and dances.

Soubrettish ways these latter days
Invite my praise, but never get it;
I still am true to yours and you--
My record's made, I'll not upset it!
The pranks they play, the things they say--
I'd blush to put the like on paper,
And I'll avow they don't know how
To dance, so awkwardly they caper!

I used to sit down in the pit
And see you flit like elf or fairy
Across the stage, and I'll engage
No moonbeam sprite was half so airy;
Lo, everywhere about me there
Were rivals reeking with pomatum,
And if, perchance, they caught your glance
In song or dance, how did I hate 'em!

At half-past ten came rapture--then
Of all those men was I most happy,
For bottled beer and royal cheer
And têtes-à-têtes were on the tapis.
Do you forget, my fair soubrette,
Those suppers at the Cafe Rector,--
The cosey nook where we partook
Of sweeter cheer than fabled nectar?

Oh, happy days, when youth's wild ways
Knew every phase of harmless folly!
Oh, blissful nights, whose fierce delights
Defied gaunt-featured Melancholy!
Gone are they all beyond recall,
And I--a shade, a mere reflection--
Am forced to feed my spirit's greed
Upon the husks of retrospection!

And lo! to-night, the phantom light,
That, as a sprite, flits on the fender,
Reveals a face whose girlish grace
Brings back the feeling, warm and tender;
And, all the while, the old-time smile
Plays on my visage, grim and wrinkled,--
As though, soubrette, your footfalls yet
Upon my rusty heart-strings tinkled!

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