Why battles all the world
For its vain glory,
Whose bravest happiness
Is transitory?

So soon its brittle power
A light touch shaketh,
Even as a vase of clay
In pieces breaketh.

Write words upon the ice,
And trust their staying,
Sooner than idle cheats
Of earth decaying.

Flattered with baubles gay,
In Truth’s mask hiding,
Thy life’s a little day
Of false confiding.

Better to plant thy trust
In wise men’s teaching,
Than for the wretched gauds
Of Fortune reaching.

False are its very dreams,
And false its pleasing,
Its labors and its lusts
A hollow leasing.

Say, where is Solomon,
Of wisdom vaunted,
Or stoutest Samson now,
The chief undaunted?

Say, where is Absalom,
Of beauty royal,
And Jonathan, the heart
To friendship loyal?

Where hath the Caesar left
His empire splendid?
Where Dives’ banqueting
In sorrow ended?

Say, where is Tully’s voice,
In senates burning?
And the wise Stagyrite,
Master of learning?

Such leaders of renown;
Such bygone spaces;
Such stately brows of old,
Such kingly races;

Such potentates of earth,
The boast of story: —
One flashing of an eye,
And gone their glory!

How brief a holyday
Man’s pomp abideth,
And all his pleasure gay
A shadow glideth!

Feast of the crawling worm!
Dust to dust crumbled!
Drop of the morning dew!
Be thy pride humbled.

Even to-morrow lies
Veiled from thy blindness;
Crowd thou to-day with deeds
Of loving-kindness.

This glory of the flesh,
Which man paradeth,
The Holy Book doth call
A flower that fadeth.

Even as the shrivelled leaf
On the wind sweeping,
So drops the life of man.
To darkness creeping.

Call not thine own whate’er
A moment liveth;
The world shall snatch again
All that it giveth.

Ponder the things above!
There thy hearths treasure!
Happy, who knows to scorn
The low world’s pleasure!