A Literary Curiosity
Source of witness transcribed: The New Orleans Crescent (New Orleans, Louisiana)
Date of witness transcribed: 8 March 1868
Notes about this poem: "A Literary Curiosity" was printed in at least 224 newspapers during the nineteenth century. It can be found using ID 589905 in this table of most widely-reprinted poems.
The following remarkable little poem is a contribution to the San Francisco Times, from the pen of Mrs. H. A. Deming. The reader will notice that each line is a quotation from some one of the standard authors of England and America. This is the result of a year's laborious search among the voluminous writings of thirty-eight leading poets of the past and present. The number of each line refers to the author below:
- 1—Why all this toil for triumphs of an hour?
2—Life’s a short summer, man a flower;
- 3—By turns we catch the vital breath and die—
4—The cradle and the tomb, alas, so nigh.
- 5—To be is better far than not to be,
6—Though all man’s life may seem a tragedy;
- 7—But light cares speak when mighty griefs are dumb,
8—The bottom is but shallow when they come.
- 9—Your fate is but the common fate of all;
10—Unmingled joys, here, to no man befall,
- 11—Nature to each allots his proper sphere,
12—Fortune makes folly her peculiar care;
- 13—Custom does not often reason overrule,
14—And throw a cruel sunshine on a fool.
- 15—Live well, how long or short permit to heaven.
16—They who forgive most, shall be most forgiven.
- 17—Sin may be clasped so close we cannot see its face—
18—Vile intercourse where virtue has no place;
- 19—Then keep each passion down, however dear,
20—Thou pendulum, betwixt a smile and tear;
- 21—Her sensual snares, let faithless pleasures lay,
22—With craft and skill, to ruin and betray;
- 23—Soar not too high to fall, but stoop to rise,
24—We masters grow of all that we despise.
- 25—O, then, renounce that impious self-esteem;
26—Riches have, wings, and grandeur is a dream.
- 27—Think not ambition wise because ‘tis brave,
28—The paths of glory lead but to the grave.
- 29—What is ambition?—’tis a glorious cheat!—
30—Only destructive to the brave and great.
- 31—What’s all the gaudy glitter of a crown?
32—The way to bliss lies not on beds of down.
- 33—How long we live, not years, but actions, tell;
34—That man lives twice who lives the first life well.
- 35—Make, then, while yet we may, your God your friend.
36—Whom Christians worship, yet not comprehend.
- 37—The trust that’s given guard; and to yourself be just;
- 38—For, live we how we can, yet die we must.
1, Young; 2, Dr. Johnson; 3, Pope; 4, Prior; 5, Sewel; 6, Spenser; 7, Daniel; 8, Sir Walter Raleigh; 9, Longfellow; 10, Southwell; 11, Congreve; 12, Churchill; 13, Rochester; 14, Armstrong; 15, Milton; 16, Baily; 17, Trench; 18, Somerville; 19, Thompson; 20, Byron; 21, Smollett; 22, Crabbe; 23, Massinger; 24, Cowley; 25, Beattie; 26, Cowper; 27, Sir Walter Davenant; 28, Grey; 29, Willis; 30, Addison; 31, Dryden; 32, Francis/Quarles; 33, Watkins; 34, Herrick; 35, William Mason; 36, Hill; 37, Dana; 38, Shakspeare.