The Kiplings and India: A Collection of Writings from British India, 1870-1900

My Rival (Rudyard Kipling)

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 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 up,
   And vainly I repine
From ten to three 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—
   Old 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!

Glossary: gauche (French) showy, in poor taste
Glossary: rickshaw (Hindustani) simple carriage
Place-name: Mall. Central plaza in Simla

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