Youth and Age

A poem by Arthur Hugh Clough

Dance on, dance on, we see, we see
Youth goes, alack, and with it glee,
A boy the old man ne’er can be;
Maternal thirty scarce can find
The sweet sixteen long left behind;
Old folks must toil, and scrape, and strain,
That boys and girls may once again
Be that for them they cannot be,
But which it gives them joy to see,
Youth goes and glee; but not in vain
Young folks if only you remain.

Dance on, dance on, ’tis joy to see;
The dry red leaves on winter’s tree,
Can feel the new sap rising free.
On, on, young folks; so you survive,
The dead themselves are still alive;
The blood in dull parental veins
Long numbed, a tingling life regains.
Deep down in earth, the tough old root
Is conscious still of flower and fruit.
Spring goes and glee but were not vain:
In you, young folks, they come again.

Dance on, dance on, we see, we feel;
Wind, wind your waltzes, wind and wheel,
Our senses too with music reel;
Nor let your pairs neglect to fill
The old ancestral scorned quadrille.
Let hand the hand uplifted seek,
And pleasure fly from cheek to cheek;
Love too; but gently, nor astray,
And yet, deluder, yet in play.
Dance on; youth goes: but all’s not vain,
Young folks, if only you remain.

Dance on, dance on, ’tis joy to see;
We once were nimble e’en as ye,
And danced to give the oldest glee;
O wherefore add, as we, you too,
Once gone your prime cannot renew;
You too, like us, at last shall stand
To watch and not to join the band,
Content some day (a far-off day)
To your supplanters soft to say,
Youth goes, but goes not all in vain,
Young folks, so only you remain,
Dance on, dance on, ’tis joy to see.

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