When I am old — and O, how soon
Will life’s sweet morning yield to noon,
And noon’s broad, fervid, earnest light
Be shaded in the solemn night,
Till, like a story well-nigh told,
Will seem my life — when I am old.
When I am old, this breezy earth
Will lose for me its voice of mirth;
The streams will have an undertone
Of sadness not by right their own;
And Spring’s sweet power in vain unfold
In rosy charms — when I am old.
When I am old, I shall not care
To deck with flowers my faded hair;
‘Twill be no vain desire of mine
In rich and costly dress to shine;
Bright jewels and the brightest gold
Will charm me naught — when I am old.
When I am old, my friends will be
Old and infirm and bowed like me;
Or else (their bodies ‘neath the sod,
Their spirits dwelling safe with God);
The old church bells will long have tolled
Above the rest — when I am old.
When I am old, I’d rather bend
Thus sadly o’er each buried friend
Than see them lose the earnest truth
That marks the friendship of our youth;
‘Twill be so sad to have them cold
Or strange to me — when I am old!
When I am old — O! how it seems
Like the wild lunacy of dreams
To picture in prophetic rhyme
That dim, far-distant, shadowy time —
So distant that it seems o’erbold
Even to say, “When I am old.”
Ere I am old — that time is now;
For youth sits lightly on my brow;
My limbs are firm, and strong, and free;
Life hath a thousand charms for me —
Charms that will long their influence hold
Within my heart — ere I am old.
Ere I am old, O! let me give
My life to learning how to live;
Then shall I meet, with willing heart,
An early summons to depart.
Or find my lengthened days consoled
By God’s sweet peace — when I am old.
Caroline Atherton Mason, 1823-1890