The Mockery of Life

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God! What a mockery is this life of ours!Cast forth in blood and pain from our mother's womb,Most like an excrement, and weeping showersOf senseless tears: unreasoning, naked, dumb,The symbol of all weakness and the sum:Our very life a sufferance. -- Presently,Grown stronger, we must fight for standing-roomUpon the earth, and the bare libertyTo breathe and move. We crave the right to toil.We push, we strive, we jostle with the rest.We learn new courage, stifle our old fears,Stand with stiff backs, take part in every broil.It may be that we love, that we are blest.It may be, for a little space of years,We conquer fate and half forget our tears.

And then fate strikes us. First our joys decay.Youth, with its pleasures, is a tale soon told.We grow a little poorer day by day.Old friendships falter. Loves grow strangely cold.In vain we shift our hearts to a new holdAnd barter joy for joy, the less for less.We doubt our strength, our wisdom, and our gold.We stand alone, as in a wildernessOf doubts and terrors. Then, if we be wise,We make our terms with fate and, while we may,Sell our life's last sad remnant for a hope.And it is wisdom thus to close our eyes.But for the foolish, those who cannot pray,What else remains of their dark horoscopeBut a tall tree and courage and a rope?

And who shall tell what ignominy deathHas yet in store for us; what abject fearsEven for the best of us; what fights for breath;What sobs, what supplications, what wild tears;What impotence of soul against despairsWhich blot out reason? -- The last trembling thoughtOf each poor brain, as dissolution nears,Is not of fair life lost, of Heaven boughtAnd glory won. 'Tis not the thought of grief;Of friends deserted; loving hearts which bleed;Wives, sisters, children who around us weep.But only a mad clutching for reliefFrom physical pain, importunate Nature's need;The search as for a womb where we may creepBack from the world, to hide, -- perhaps to sleep.

© Wilfrid Scawen Blunt