Arthur Symons

Here you will find the Poem The Old Women of poet Arthur Symons

The Old Women

They pass upon their old, tremulous feet, 
Creeping with little satchels down the street, 
And they remember, many years ago, 
Passing that way in silks. They wander, slow 
And solitary, through the city ways, 
And they alone remember those old days 
Men have forgotten. In their shaking heads 
A dancer of old carnivals yet treads 
The measure of past waltzes, and they see 
The candles lit again, the patchouli 
Sweeten the air, and the warm cloud of musk 
Enchant the passing of the passionate dusk. 
Then you will see a light begin to creep 
Under the earthen eyelids, dimmed with sleep, 
And a new tremor, happy and uncouth, 
Jerking about the corners of the mouth. 
Then the old head drops down again, and shakes, 

Sometimes, when the swift gaslight wakes 
The dreams and fever of the sleepless town, 
A shaking huddled thing in a black gown 
Will steal at midnight, carrying with her 
Violet bags of lavender, 
Into the taproom full of noisy light; 
Or, at the crowded earlier hour of night, 
Sidle, with matches, up to some who stand 
About a stage-door, and, with furtive hand, 
Appealing: "I too was a dancer, when 
Your fathers would have been young gentlemen!" 
And sometimes, out of some lean ancient throat, 
A broken voice, with here and there a note 
Of unspoiled crystal, suddenly will arise 
Into the night, while a cracked fiddle cries 
Pantingly after; and you know she sings 
The passing of light, famous, passing things. 
And sometimes, in the hours past midnight, reels 
Out of an alley upon staggering heels, 
Or into the dark keeping of the stones 
About a doorway, a vague thing of bones 
And draggled hair. 

And all these have been loved. 
And not one ruinous body has not moved 
The heart of man's desire, nor has not seemed 
Immortal in the eyes of one who dreamed 
The dream that men call love. This is the end 
Of much fair flesh; it is for this you tend 
Your delicate bodies many careful years, 
To be this thing of laughter and of tears, 
To be this living judgment of the dead, 
An old gray woman with a shaking head.