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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. The Book of Georgian Verse. 1909.

My Birthday

Thomas Moore (1779–1852)

‘MY birthday!’ What a different sound

That word had in my youthful ears!

And how, each time the day comes round,

Less and less white its mark appears!

When first our scanty years are told,

It seems like pastime to grow old;

And as Youth counts the shining links

That Time around him binds so fast,

Pleased with the task, he little thinks

How hard that chain will press at last.

Vain was the man, and false as vain,

Who said, ‘Were he ordained to run

His long career of life again,

He would do all that he had done.’

Ah! ’tis not thus the voice that dwells

In sober birthdays speaks to me;

Far otherwise—of time it tells

Lavished unwisely, carelessly;

Of counsel mocked; of talents made

Haply for high and pure designs,

But oft, like Israel’s incense, laid

Upon unholy, earthly shrines;

Of nursing many a wrong desire;

Of wandering after Love too far,

And taking every meteor fire

That crossed my pathway, for his star!

All this it tells, and, could I trace

The imperfect picture o’er again,

With power to add, retouch, efface

The lights and shades, the joy and pain,

How little of the past would stay!

How quickly all should melt away—

All—but that freedom of the mind

Which hath been more than wealth to me;

Those friendships, in my boyhood twined,

And kept till now unchangingly;

And that dear home, that saving ark

Where Love’s true light at last I’ve found,

Cheering within, when all grows dark

And comfortless and stormy round.