Fugitive Verses
Popular Reprinted Poetry from Nineteenth Century Newspapers

Mortality

  • Oh! why should the spirit of mortal be proud!
  • Like a light-fleeting meteor, a fast-flitting cloud,
  • A flash of the lightning, a break of the wave,
  • He passeth from life to his rest in the grave.

  • The leaves of the oak and the willow shall fade,
  • Be scattered around and together be laid;
  • And the young and the old, and the low and the high,
  • Shall moulder to dust, and together shall lie.

  • The child whom a mother attended and loved;
  • The mother that infant’s affection who proved;
  • The husband that mother and infant who blest,
  • Each, all are away to their dwelling of rest.

  • The maid on whose brow, on whose cheek, in whose eye
  • Shone beauty and pleasure, her triumphs are by;
  • And alike from the minds of the living erased,
  • Are the mem’ries of mortals who loved her and praised.

  • The hand of the King that the sceptre hath borne;
  • The brow of the Priest that the mitre hath worn;
  • The eye of the sage and the heart of the brave,
  • Are hidden and lost in the depths of the grave.

  • The saint who enjoy’d the communion of Heaven;
  • The sinner who dared to remain unforgiven;
  • The wise and the foolish, the guilty and just,
  • Have quietly mingled their bones in the dust.

  • The peasant whose lot was to sow and to reap;
  • The herdsman that climb’d with his goats up the steep;
  • The beggar who wander’d in search of his bread,
  • Have faded away like the grass that we tread.

  • So the multitude goes, like the flower or the weed
  • That wither away to let others succeed;
  • So the multitude comes, even those we behold,
  • To reap every tale that has often been told.

  • For we are the same that our fathers have been,
  • We’ve seen the same sights that our fathers have seen;
  • We drink the same stream, and we see the same sun,
  • And we run the course that our fathers have run.

  • The thoughts we are thinking our fathers would think,
  • From the death we are shrinking our fathers would shrink,
  • To the life we are clinging they also would cling;
  • But it speeds from the earth like a bird on the wing.

  • They loved, but their story we cannot unfold,
  • They scorned, but the heart of the haughty is cold;
  • They grieved, but no wail from their slumbers will come;
  • They joyed, but the tongues of their gladness is dumb.

  • They died!—ah! they died! We things that are now,
  • Who walk on the turf that lies over each brow,
  • That make in their dwellings a transient abode,
  • Meet the things that they met on their pilgrimage road.

  • Yea, hope and despondency, pleasure and pain,
  • Are mingled together in sunshine and rain;
  • And the smile and the tear, and the song and the dirge,
  • Still follow each other like surge upon surge.

  • ‘Tis the wink of an eye, ‘tis the draught of a breath,
  • From the blossom of health to the paleness of death,
  • From the gilded saloon to the bier and the shroud—
  • Oh! why should the spirit of mortal be proud?