Our Life compare we with their length of dayes
Our Life compare we with their length of dayes,
Who to the tenth of theirs doth now arrive?
And though thus short, we shorten many ways,
Living so little while we are alive;
In eating, drinking, sleeping, vain delight,
So unawares comes on perpetual night,
And puts all pleasures vain unto eternal flight.
When I behold the heavens as in their prime,
And then the earth (though old) still clad in green,
The stones and trees, insensible of time,
Nor age nor wrinkle on their front are seen;
If winter come, and greenness then do fade,
A Spring returns, and they more youthful made;
But Man grows old, lies down, remains where once he ’s laid.
By birth more noble than those creatures all,
Yet seems by nature and by custome cursed,
No sooner born, but grief and care make fall
That state obliterate he had at first.
Nor youth, nor strength, nor wisdom spring again,
Nor habitations long their names retain,
But in oblivion to the final day remain.
Shall I then praise the heavens, the trees, the earth,
Because their beauty and their strength last longer?
Shall I wish their, or never to had birth,
Because they’re bigger, and their bodyes stronger?
Nay, they shall darken, perish, fade and dye,
And when unmade, soever shall they lye,
But man was made for endless immortality.
Under the cooling shadow of a stately elm
Close sate I by a goodly River’s side,
Where gliding streams the rocks did overwhelm;
A lonely place, with pleasures dignified.
I once that lov’d the shady woods so well,
Now thought the rivers did the trees excell,
And if the sun would ever shine, there would I dwell.
While on the stealing stream I fixt mine eye,
Which to the long’d-for Ocean held its course,
I markt nor crooks, nor rubs that there did lye
Could hinder aught, but still augment its force:
O happy Flood, quoth I, that holdst thy race
Till thou arrive at thy beloved place,
Nor is it rocks or shoals that can obstruct thy pace.
Nor is ’t enough, that thou alone may’st slide,
But hundred brooks in thy cleer waves do meet,
So hand in hand along with thee they glide
To Thetis’ house, where all embrace and greet:
Thou Emblem true, of what I count the best,
O could I lead my Rivulets to rest,
So may we press to that vast mansion, ever blest.
An excerpt from Contemplations by Anne Bradstreet 1612–1672