Fugitive Verses
Popular Reprinted Poetry from Nineteenth Century Newspapers

The Footsteps of Decay

Source of witness transcribed: The Idaho World (Idaho City, Idaho Territory)

Date of witness transcribed: 17 January 1864

Notes about this poem: "The Footsteps of Decay" was printed in at least 208 newspapers during the nineteenth century. It can be found using ID 378565 in this table of most widely-reprinted poems.


The following is a translation from an ancient Spanish poem, which, says the Edinburg Review, is surpassed by nothing with which we are acquainted in the Spanish language, except the "Ode of Luis de Leon."

  • Oh! let the soul its slumbers break—
  • Arounds its senses and awake
  • To see how soon
  • Life, in its glories, glides away,
  • And the stern footsteps of decay
  • Come stealing on.

  • And while we view the rolling tide,
  • Down which our flowing minutes glide
  • Away so fast,
  • Let us the present hour employ,
  • And deem each future dream a joy
  • Already past.

  • Let no vain hope deceive the mind—
  • No happier let us hope to find
  • Tomorrow, than to-day.
  • Our golden dreams of yore were bright,
  • Like them the present shall delight—
  • Like them decay.

  • Our lives like hasting streams must be,
  • That into one engulphing sea
  • Are doomed to fall—
  • The sea of Death, whose waves roll on
  • O’er king and kingdom, crown and throne,
  • And swallow all.

  • Alike the river’s lordly tide,
  • Alike the humble rivulet’s glide
  • To that sad wave;
  • Death levels poverty and pride—
  • The rich and poor sleep side by side
  • Within the grave.

  • Our birth is but a starting place;
  • Life is the running of the race,
  • And death the goal:
  • There all our glittering toys are brought—
  • That path alone, of all unsought,
  • Is found of all.

  • See, then, how poor and little worth
  • Are all those glittering toys of earth
  • That lure us here!
  • Dreams of a sleep that death must break,
  • Alas! before it bids us wake,
  • We disappear.

  • Long ere the damp of earth can blight,
  • The cheek’s pure glow of red and white
  • Has passed away:
  • Youth smiled, and all was heavenly fair—
  • Age came and laid his finger there,
  • And where are they?

  • Where is the strength that spurned decay,
  • The steps that roved so light and gay,
  • The heart’s blithe tone?
  • The strength is gone, the step is slow,
  • And joy grows wearisome, and wo!
  • When age comes on!