Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 2/Only for something to say

ONLY FOR SOMETHING TO SAY.

Not engaged? I’m so glad. Will you talk with me, then?
An oasis for me in this desert of crowd:
Blest be the blindness of dancing men,
And Laurent for playing so loud!
And so you came with the Ardesley set?
Do you talk with them as you talk with me?
Do these men listen and never forget,
And never again be in fancy free?
I scarce remember’d you, fair as you are,
And you’ll beam as brightly when I am gone,—
Careless that thoughts of a vanished star
Make a starless night so lone.
I may take one flower before I go,—
One little bud to tell of the giver?
O yes, it will die in a day, I know,
But the memory—never—never!”
An innocent spirit that knew not pain,
A sweet sunny brow that was stranger to sorrow,
May ponder and dwell on such words again,
Half-glad, half-sad, to-morrow.
Nay, bonny bird, never pine. Among
The fairest and gayest be fair and gay,
Spite of homage wrung from a flattering tongue,
Only for something to say.

That last valse yours, sir? Certainly, no.
Have I not kept the very next two?
And should I have kept and remember’d them so
For any one else but you?
Oh, I’ll not praise you for dancing in time,
And talking better than all the rest;
But because it is so I think it no crime
To like you for a partner best.
Why did you look, when I danced with Sir John,
With a look as black as a storm of thunder,
And now put your drawing-room manners on,
And your brightest face, I wonder?
Well, will you take me to have some tea?
Dear, how fresh it is on the stair!
You’re not too engaged to stay with me
A minute or two in the air?”
A look that had scorned the tenderest guile,
A heart that deem’d itself stern and strong,
Is bent to the light of a Psyche smile,
And chain’d by a syren-song.
Ho, there, Sir Knight, unconquer’d yet,—
Rover so long, are you caught to-day
In the soft snare set by a clever coquette,
Only for something to say?

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Tis a glorious prowess, in sooth, with a word
To wound the trusting, and tame the proud,
Even as a leaf by a breath is stirr’d,
A spray by a dew-drop bow’d.
And so the battle goes bravely through,
And heart gets harden’d as tongue flows free,
And swells the blazon, “I conquer you,
Lest you should conquer me.”
Fight on, brave souls, ’tis a noble strife—
Play on, rosy lips, ’tis a merry game—
Tourney for tourney, and life for life,
Weapons and lists the same.
Since language was framed but to hide the thought,
(Moral as deep as the proverb is old),

Since daily the delicate miracle’s wrought,
Hourly the legend told,
You will surely own it an idle creed,
Frivolous gallant and faithless maid,
That forbids the victim to suffer and bleed,
For one vain hour’s parade;
You will surely deny by the evident token
Of trophy on trophy won day by day,
That hearts may be broken by light words spoken,—
Only for something to say.

Ralph A. Benson.