1My soul, why art thou sad at the decay
2Of this frail frame, this
feeble house of clay?
3What can be expected from the humble birth
4Of this frail fabric, but to fall to earth?
bubbling fountain, being by nature led,
6Will rise no higher than her crystal head;
7Though many marble aqueducts it fill,
8Yet in a constant level it runs still.
9So mortal man, e’en from his very birth,
10Runs weeping on, then creeps into the earth.
11Those gorgeous flowers which the valleys crown,
12That by the impartial
scytheman are mown down,
13Trust me they seem to hang their heads and weep
’Cause in their causes they so soon must sleep.
15So man to his
first principles must turn
16And take a nap in black oblivion’s urn.
Triumphant laurel, whose unconquered boughs
Encircle poets, and the illustrious brows
19Of emperors: how soon, alas, we see
Her verdant leaves all
filemot to be.
21E’en so man’s youth and beauty doth decay;
heat and moisture cools and dries to clay.
cedar that aspires so high,
24Scorning the clouds, threat’ning to scale the sky,
25For all her pride, a kernel was her birth,
26Which shows at last she must return to earth;
Though she the living kill and dead preserve,
28Yet can she not from death herself reserve.
cypress that doth mourn for us in vain
30Shall be cut down and never sprout again.
31So man being tied to his creator’s laws
32Must taste of death and shrink unto his
quick-eyed eagle that alone
Phoebus in his blazing throne,
35And by that trial, bastard birds disclaim,
36Scorning they should be honoured with her name;
37Yet she and hers to dust must all resolve,
38And sad obscurity must them involve.
39So miserable man doth draw his breath
40’Twixt hope and fear, then sinks into the earth.
phoenix on her lofty altar lies
42And, willingly, a virgin victim dies,
43Her gold and purple plumes to ashes turns
44As in her aromatic pyre she burns.
45So man that to eternity aspires,
46Conquered by death, into his
swan upon the trembling breast
48Of silver Thames, how poor a time of rest
49She doth enjoy, soon droops her milk-white wings,
50While sadly she her
51So while man strives t’eternise others’ glory,
52Conspiring Death and Time
cut off his story.
stag that trips it o’er the lawn in state,
54Scorning the ground, is subject unto fate.
brave hart which Blackmore once did hold,
56Whose snowy neck encircled was with gold,
57All ages being desired, for Caesar’s sake,
58To spare his life whene’er they did him take,
59But yet for all this conquering king’s desire,
60In tears he did his vital breath expire.
61So man that enters in’s sad mother’s fears
62As he begins, his exit makes in tears.
That beast which poisoned waters drinks with scorn
64Because she wears a cordial in her horn,
65From putrefaction she her
66Corruption then at least will have his due.
67So man (alas) no cure can find in death,
68When he that gave it takes away his breath.
king of beasts that doth the forest range,
70And at his pleasure doth his pasture change,
71And, like our
Hydra, makes his will his laws,
72Tearing his vassals with his cruel claws;
73As other creatures hath his terror felt,
74So death will do by him as he hath dealt.
75So domineering man, his trophies must
76Ere long be read and seen in nought but dust.
leviathan that plays and sports
78And makes mad
Neptune’s azure courts,
79E’en he whose fellow was
by Fate’s direction
Feigned to be
’gainst the resurrection,
son of Pride on the forsaken shores,
82Out of his element his life
83So man, though he all creatures else transcend,
84In sighs and groans (ah me) his life must end.
swiftest creature that’s below the moon,
Arion’s life, alas how
87Her race will end; e’en in a little time
88She must return again to dirt or slime.
89So man his destiny can ne’er outrun;
cut, man’s life is done.
remora that ne’er will fail
92To stop the proudest ship that’s under sail,
93When Death doth summon her she must away;
94For all her art she can’t make time to stay.
95So man that strives to blur another’s fame,
96Death comes the while and blots out his own name.
97Those cities that the orient kingdoms gracest,
98Beneath their ruins, sadly, lies defacest,
Persepolis the fair,
Babylon so famous, all despair
101Of ever being restored again, and now
102We see that all to time and fate must bow.
103So wretched man, whose structure is of dust,
104After his period’s past, he moulder must,
105And this our globe of earth ere long shall burn
106And all her pomp and pride to
107Then, my impatient soul, what canst thou say,
sublunary things decay?
Aurora in her youthful pride,
110Her purple curtains newly drawn aside,
111As when her blessed infant she brought forth,
113Bright is the one, but brighter is the other;
114The daughter infinitely excels the mother.
115Light from mine eyes I wish may never part,
116But thou, sweet Truth, shalt harbour in my heart;
117Yet this most glorious creature, Light, soon fades
118And is enveloped in night’s dark shades.
119So, though man’s soul’s a beam of heavenly light,
120Yet must his body sleep in death and night.
borrowed splendency shall cease,
122And she shall
leave to wane and to increase,
123Nor shall her changes make our ocean rise
124Or fall, or her sad influence close our eyes.
Her and her brother’s fiery shafts no more
126Shall make poor
Niobes their loss deplore.
glittering harbinger of cheerful day
128That leads the
sable empress on her way,
129Bearing a torch, her
ebon coach beside,
130As she triumphant round our orb doth ride,
E’en she shall be
amazed, and lose her way,
132Not able to conduct the night or day.
133Nor shall that sly thief,
Hermes, ever keep
134Behind th’illustrious sunbeams, playing bo-peep;
135His light shall be obscured no more with light,
136But all his
knaveries shall come in sight.
137The fount and centre of all light, the sun,
those orbs perpetually do run,
139Shall all his influence and light contract,
amazèd Nature quite distract.
Auspicious Jupiter, poor mortals’ friend,
142His mild aspect to earth no more shall send;
Fierce Mars, his
flagrant rapier shall
144Seeing total Nature drinks the self-same cup;
malignant, melancholy star
146That, to do mischief, could discern so far
Hibernie, where I first had life,
148Now quite destroyed by
Atropos’ keen knife.
149Ah, cruel stars not me alone annoy,
150But my poor country, too, they must destroy!
conjunctions, too, ere long shall cease,
152When all’s to chaos turned, there will be peace.
six proud Pleiads shall their beauty hide,
154As well as
Sisyphus, his bashful bride;
Orion’s harp no music make,
156But such as shall the stoutest courage shake;
tender-hearted sisters shall no more
Their brother Hyas’ hasty fate deplore,
159Show’ring from their sad eyes such floods of rain
160That oft the plowman’s hopes and
vulture that did stop man’s high design
162Must stoop to fate and cease to fly or
163And all the gems of
164Shall lose their sparkling lustre and drop down.
165Nor shall pale
166At the revolving of four hundred year,
167For though her absence we have long endured,
168Yet shall she be eternally obscured.
Sirius no more shall show her face,
doth use when
Phoebus is in place,
171But these and all the fixèd orbs of light
involved once more in horrid night.
173Like robes, the elements shall folded lie
174In the vast wardrobe of eternity.
175Then my unsettled soul be more resolved,
176Seeing all this universe must be