Scottish Poetry Selection
- Ballade of Roulette

Andrew Lang (1844 - 1912) is best known as a collector of folk and fairy tales, but was also a prolific poet and novelist. After obtaining a first class degree at Balliol College, Oxford, he became a fellow of Merton College there. The poem below, about the roulette wheel of life, comes from a book of poetry "Ballades in Blue China" published in 1880.

   Ballade of Roulette

This life - one was thinking to-day,
   In the midst of a medley of fancies -
Is a game, and the board where we play
   Green earth with her poppies and pansies.
Let manqué be faded romances,
   Be passé remorse and regret;
Hearts dance with the wheel as it dances -
   The wheel of Dame Fortune's roulette.

The lover will stake as he may
   His heart on his Peggies and Nancies;
The girl has her beauty to lay;
   The saint has his prayers and his trances;
The poet bets endless expanses
   In Dreamland; the scamp has his debt:
How they gaze at the wheel as it glances -
The wheel of Dame Fortune's roulette!

The Kaiser will stake his array
   Of sabres, of Krupps, and of lances;
An Englishman punts with his pay,
   And glory the jeton of France is;
Your artists, or Whistlers or Vances,
   Have voices or colours to bet;
Will you moan that its motion askance is -
   The wheel of Dame Fortune's roulette?


The prize that the pleasure enhances?
   The prize is - at last to forget
The changes, the chops, and the chances -
   The wheel of Dame Fortune's roulette.

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