My Rival

The following classic poem, written from the perspective of a 17-year-old girl, is called “My Rival” by 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 color 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 I 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 “mashers”)
I trot along the Mall alone;
     My prettiest frocks and sashes
Don’t help to fill my programme-card,
     And vainly I repine
From ten to two 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,
     “Cast” 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 forever 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.

Rudyard Kipling is perhaps most famous for writing the children’s book, The Jungle Book, in 1894.  He was born in India and educated in England.  He was born in the same year as W.B. Yeats (1865) and is buried next to Charles Dickens at Westminster Abbey.  He was the first English writer to receive the Nobel Prize for literature.

Read the book, “The Collected Poems of Rudyard Kipling,” for free online at google books or buy it at amazon.com.

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