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Poem by John Clare
Why should man's high aspiring mind Burn in him with so proud a breath, When all his haughty views can find In this world yields to death? The fair, the brave, the vain, the wise, The rich, the poor, the great, and small, Are each but worm's anatomies To strew his quiet hall. Power may make many earthly gods, Where gold and bribery's guilt prevails, But death's unwelcome, honest odds Kick o'er the unequal scales. The flattered great may clamours raise Of power, and their own weakness hide, But death shall find unlooked-for ways To end the farce of pride, An arrow hurtled eer so high, From een a giant's sinewy strength, In Time's untraced eternity Goes but a pigmy length; Nay, whirring from the tortured string, With all its pomp of hurried flight, Tis by the skylark's little wing Outmeasured in its height. Just so man's boasted strength and power Shall fade before death's lightest stroke, Laid lower than the meanest flower, Whose pride oer-topt the oak; And he who, like a blighting blast, Dispeopled worlds with war's alarms Shall be himself destroyed at last By poor despised worms. Tyrants in vain their powers secure, And awe slaves' murmurs with a frown, For unawed death at last is sure To sap the babels down. A stone thrown upward to the sky Will quickly meet the ground agen; So men-gods of earth's vanity Shall drop at last to men; And Power and Pomp their all resign, Blood-purchased thrones and banquet halls. Fate waits to sack Ambition's shrine As bare as prison walls, Where the poor suffering wretch bows down To laws a lawless power hath passed; And pride, and power, and king, and clown Shall be Death's slaves at last. Time, the prime minister of Death! There's nought can bribe his honest will. He stops the richest tyrant's breath And lays his mischief still. Each wicked scheme for power all stops, With grandeurs false and mock display, As eve's shades from high mountain tops Fade with the rest away. Death levels all things in his march; Nought can resist his mighty strength; The palace proud, triumphal arch, Shall mete its shadow's length. The rich, the poor, one common bed Shall find in the unhonoured grave, Where weeds shall crown alike the head Of tyrant and of slave.
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