The ballroom was filled with fashion's throng,
It shone with a thousand lights,
And there was a woman who passed along,
The fairest of all the sights,
A girl to her lover then softly sighed,
There's riches at her command;
But she married for wealth, not for love he cried,
Though she lives in a mansion grand.
She's only a bird in a gilded cage,
A beautiful sight to see,
You may think she's happy and free from care,
She's not, though she seems to be,
'Tis sad when you think of her wasted life,
For youth cannot mate with age,
And her beauty was sold,
For an old man's gold,
She's a bird in a gilded cage.
I stood in a churchyard just at eve',
When sunset adorned the west,
And looked at the people who'd come to grieve,
For loved ones now laid at rest,
A tall marble monument marked the grave,
Of one who'd been fashion's queen,
And I thought she is happier here at rest,
Than to have people say when seen.
"A Bird in a Gilded Cage,” composed by Arthur J. Lamb (lyrics) and Harry Von Tilzer (music) is a long-favored, sentimental ballad which debuted in 1900. In its first year, it reportedly sold more than two million copies of the sheet music.
According to Von Tilzer, the composer of the music, said that he was approached by Lamb in 1899. Lamb presented the lyrics for the song, and although Von Tilzer liked it, he requested that Lamb alter the lyrics so that it was apparent that the woman in the song was married and not a wealthy man’s mistress.
Together, the duo worked on the song at a local public house and were pleased to see that some of the nearby girls were in tears upon hearing the tale of a beautiful young woman who married for money and not for love (a prospect, I’m sure, which one of them were considering). At that point, they knew that their work was a success.
Enjoy this version sung by Music Hall siren Florrie Forde.