Waltz of Princes

 
The pictured corridor, I know,

Is filled with faces old and new -

Gilt princes poised against their age,

All young, all handsome, and all true;

Or so they seem in shadowed light,

As I go past some August night,

Drawn by the music from the stage -

The blue room where the waltz is played

Always just out of sight:

Gay music which is still so sad.

 

New York’s deep springing sound is gone,

Park Avenue is quiet, unseen,

As through this Wienerwald I move

Into a room where I have been

Often before made welcome by

Young men with whom I am not shy -

True princes, who are keen to prove

Their charm as perfect as their looks:

One quotes a line of mine;

Another tries - with some mistakes.

 

More music now, but it is soft;

New friends come in when some have left;

And there are guessing games, and drinks

Poured by a tall archduke bereft

Of linden lands in summer-time:

Nearby an ormolu clock may chime

Its unregarded hour, which links

This world of rococo to life,

While here in pantomime

A youth, as actor, makes us laugh.

 

But all of this is past and done,

A thousand years away, and green

Though memory be, still on this page

Fall shadows absent from that scene:

Dear George is dead: but Craig and James,

And others with remembered names,

How do they fare in this dark age,

New York changed wrathfully since then?

Music no longer tames;

No waltzes now for savage men.

 

Only the young believe that they

Are young forever: then like me

Those princes thought the present stayed,

A waltz-time principality:

With life, if learned, new presents come,

As lights at sunset fall on Rome,

That first New York, whose glories fade

Into a palimpsest of truth,

Where all are welcomed home,

Even the princes far from youth.