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Soul’s Delight

Why toil in vain, O man, thy soul disquieting?

Fate's slave from birth thou art, without release.

Suffer it thus- with destiny contend not;

To love thy lot- this is to love thy peace.

Nay, better- strive to wrest, in fate's despite,

Some sweetness from thy life, some soul's delight.


Waking we burst, at each return of morn,

From death's dull fetters and again are born.

No longer ours the moments that have passed;

To a new remnant of our lives we haste.

Call not the hours thine own, that made thee grey,

That left their wrinkles, and have fled away;

The past no more shall yield thee ill or good,

Gone to the silent times beyond the flood.

Death is a debt that’s due from every man

Who therefore never knows when life will end.

O man, while there is time, heed this fact well

And have your merriment (including love)

Before too late. Use wine to wash death from

Your thoughts and leave the rest to Fortune’s whim.


Alas, the pleasures of our lives are brief!

Grieve over time’s haste. While we sit, or sleep,

Or work, or revel in delights, swift time

Continues its relentless forward march

Advancing always on us wretched men

To bring to all of us the end of life.


All those who live the kind of life we do,

Who gaze upon the sun and breathe but wind,

Are creatures who derive their health from air.

If anyone should squeeze us with his hand

So tightly that it presses out our breath,

He steals our life and sends us down to Hell.

As nothing, we eat vanity and graze

On breaths of wind in pastures of the air.


Your days upon the earth are very brief.

Therefore, cast off your worries and complaints.

Don’t live like you’re already damned and dead

Before you’re thrown into the ground for worms.


I wept at birth and after weeping more

I find at death my life was filled with tears.

O sad and sobbing, fragile race of men,

You’re barely born before you’re rendered dust.


How can you size the Earth and Universe

When you’re no more than some small bit of clay?

No, measure first yourself and know yourself

Before you try to fathom endless earth,

And if you cannot grasp your little self,

How can you calibrate infinity?

Enjoy the Present

Drink and be merry. What the morrow brings

No mortal knoweth: wherefore toil or run?

Spend while thou mayst, eat, fix on present things

Thy hopes and wishes: life and death are one.

One moment grasp life's goods; to thee they fall:

Dead, thou hast nothing, and another all.

Translation: Goldwin SMITH

Life is a Theatre

This life a theatre we well may call,

Where every actor must perform with art,

Or laugh it through, and make a farce of all,

Or learn to bear with grace his tragic part.

Translation: Robert BLAND

Think of your conception, you'll soon forget

Think of your conception, you'll soon forget

what Plato puffs you up with, all that

"immortality" and "divine life" stuff.

"Man, why dost thou think of Heaven? Nay

consider thine origins in common clay"

is one way of putting it, but not near blunt enough.

Think of your father, sweating, drooling, drunk,

you, his spark of lust, his spurt of spunk.

Translation: Tony HARRISON

Contentment in Old Age

The women mock me for being old,

Bidding me look at the wreck of my years in the mirror.

But I, as I approach the end of my life,

Care not whether I have white hair or black,

And with sweet-scented ointments

And crowns of lovely flowers and wine

I make heavy care to cease.

The Voyage of Life

Life is a dangerous voyage;

for tempest-tossed in it we often strike rock

more pitiably than shipwrecked men;

and having Chance as pilot of life,

we sail doubtfully as on the sea,

some on a fair voyage, and others contrariwise;

yet all alike we put into the one anchorage under earth.

The Breath of Life

Breathing thin air into our nostrils,

we live and look on the torch of the sun,

all we who live what is called life; and are as organs,

receiving our spirits from quickening airs.

If one then chokes that little breath with his hand,

he robs us of life, and brings us down to Hades.

Thus being nothing we wax high in hardihood,

feeding on air from a little breath.

Lacrimae rerum

Weeping I was born and having wept I die,

and I found all my living amid many tears.

O tearful, weak, pitiable race of men,

dragged under earth and mouldering away!