Ode On The Death Of A Lady, Who Lived One Hundred Years, And Died On Her Birthday, 1728 (Translation

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Ancient dame, how wide and vast
To a race like ours appears,
Rounded to an orb at last,
All thy multitude of years!

We, the herd of human kind,
Frailer and of feebler powers;
We, to narrow bounds confined,
Soon exhaust the sum of ours.

Death’s delicious banquet—we
Perish even from the womb,
Swifter than a shadow flee,
Nourish’d but to feed the tomb.

Seeds of merciless disease
Lurk in all that we enjoy;
Some that waste us by degrees,
Some that suddenly destroy.

And, if life o’erleap the bourn
Common to the sons of men,
What remains, but that we mourn,
Dream, and dote, and drivel then?

Fast as moons can wax and wane
Sorrow comes; and, while we groan,
Pant with anguish, and complain,
Half our years are fled and gone.

If a few (to few ‘tis given),
Lingering on this earthly stage,
Creep and halt with steps uneven
To the period of an age,

Wherefore live they, but to see
Cunning, arrogance, and force,
Sights lamented much by thee,
Holding their accustom’d course?

Oft was seen, in ages past,
All that we with wonder view;
Often shall be to the last;
Earth produces nothing new.

Thee we gratulate, content
Should propitious Heaven design
Life for us as calmly spent,
Though but half the length of thine.

© William Cowper