Words by Arthur J. Lamb, Music by Harry von Tilzer (1900)
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.
Ruth Etting’s version of this song was recorded in 1934, and appeared in the RKO Radio Pictures film short, Derby Decade. The film was set in the 1890′s, so this song, which was written in 1899, and became one of the most popular songs of 1900, selling two million copies of the sheet music, was an appropriate choice.