Before I die I may be great, The chanting guest of kings, A queen in wonderlands of song Where every blossom sings. I may put on a golden gown And walk in sunny light, Carrying in my hair the day, And in my eyes the night.
It may be men will honor me — The wistful ones and wise, Who know the ruth of victory, The joy of sacrifice. I may be rich, I may be gay, But all the crowns grow old — The laurel withers and the bay And dully rusts the gold.
Before I die I may break bread With many queens and kings — Oh, take the golden gown away, For there are other things — And I shall miss the love of babes With flesh of rose and pearl, The dewy eyes, the budded lips — A boy, a little girl.
My father got me strong and straight and slim, And I give thanks to him; My mother bore me glad and sound and sweet, — I kiss her feet.
But now, with me, their generation fails, And nevermore avails To cast through me the ancient mould again, Such women and men.
I have no son, whose life of flesh and fire Sprang from my splendid sire, No daughter for whose soul my mother's flesh Wrought raiment fresh.
Life's venerable rhythms like a flood Beat in my brain and blood, Crying from all the generations past, "Is this the last?"
And I make answer to my haughty dead, Who made me, heart and head, "Even the sunbeams falter, flicker and bend — I am the end."