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When I Am Old, a poem by Miriam del Banco (1932)


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When I Am Old
When I am old and bent with years,
And marked by life’s great joys and fears,
When these soft tresses—ebon now,—
Shall lie like snow upon my brow,
Will I have heard life’s story told
In smiles or tears, when I am old?
Shall I then look indifferently
On all that Time yet hides from me?
Or will to-morrow and to-day
Still roll like mystic screens away,
Revealing shade and sunshine’s gold,
And joys and fears, when I am old?
Will every flower that gems the sod
Still seem to smile its praise to God?
Will starry nights and woodland streams
Glide o’er life’s page like elfin dreams?
Or will I care no more to hold
These treasures dear, when I am old?
How will the praise and blame of men
Fall on my heart and conscience then?
Will I have learned to bear the sneers,
That fill my eyes with angry tears?
Will words of love such joy unfold,
Such music wake, when I am old?
Who, at that far-off time, will be
The friends I’ll love, and who to me
Will make life sweet? Will I still trace
Some beauty in each wrinkled face?
Ah, will my hands the same hands fold
In friendship’s clasp, when I am old?
When I am old? It seems to me
That such a time can never be:
That my strong eyes shall fail in sight.
My quick ear hear no sound aright;
So far away—’tis almost bold
For me to say “when I am old.”
Yet should God bless my life with age,
May I have written on life’s page
A noble thought, a word to bless!
May I then view with happiness
The past, and may my songs unfold
A praise to God that I am old.

The poem “When I Am Old” by Miriam del Banco (1858-1931) was included in her posthumously published anthology, Poetry and Prose (1932), p. 111-112. The poem was likely published during her lifetime, but we do not know where or when. If you know, please leave a comment, or contact us. –Aharon Varady






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