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The Database of Ornament

                           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 little bags of lavender,
            Into the tap-room 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

56                              THE SAVOY

            Of unspoilt 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 grey woman with a shaking head.

                                                                                    ARTHUR SYMONS.

MLA citation:

Symons, Arthur. “The Old Women.” The Savoy vol. 5, July 1896, p. 55. Savoy Digital Edition, edited by Christopher Keep and Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, 2018-2020. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2019.