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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.


By Edward Fitzgerald (1809–1883)

  • IN all the actions that a Man performs, some part of his life passeth. We die with doing that, for which only our sliding life was granted. Nay, though we do nothing, Time keeps his constant pace, and flies as fast in idlenesse, as in employment. Whether we play, or labour, or sleep, or dance, or study, The Sunne posteth, and the Sand runnes.

  • WEARIED with hearing folks cry,

    That Time would incessantly fly,

    Said I to myself, “I don’t see

    Why Time should not wait upon me;

    I will not be carried away,

    Whether I like it, or nay:”—

    But ere I go on with my strain,

    Pray turn me that hour-glass again!

    I said, “I will read, and will write,

    And labour all day, and all night,

    And Time will so heavily load,

    That he cannot but wait on the road;”—

    But I found that, balloon-like in size,

    The more fill’d, the faster he flies;

    And I could not the trial maintain,

    Without turning the hour-glass again!

    Then said I, “If Time has so flown

    When laden, I’ll leave him alone;

    And I think that he cannot but stay,

    When he’s nothing to carry away!”

    So I sat, folding my hands,

    Watching the mystical sands,

    As they fell, grain after grain,

    Till I turn’d up the hour-glass again!

    Then I cried in a rage, “Time shall stand!”

    The hour-glass I smash’d with my hand,

    My watch into atoms I broke

    And the sun-dial hid with a cloak!

    “Now,” I shouted aloud, “Time is done!”

    When suddenly, down went the Sun;

    And I found to my cost and my pain,

    I might buy a new hour-glass again!

    Whether we wake, or we sleep,

    Whether we carol, or weep,

    The Sun, with his Planets in chime,

    Marketh the going of Time;

    But Time, in a still better trim,

    Marketh the going of him:

    One link in an infinite chain,

    Is this turning the hour-glass again!

    The robes of the Day and the Night,

    Are not wove of mere darkness and light;

    We read that, at Joshua’s will,

    The Sun for a Time once stood still!

    So that Time by his measure to try,

    Is Petitio Principii!

    Time’s Scythe is going amain,

    Though he turn not his hour-glass again!

    And yet, after all, what is Time?

    Renowned in Reason, and Rhyme,

    A Phantom, a Name, a Notion,

    That measures Duration or Motion?

    Or but an apt term in the lease

    Of Beings, who know they must cease?

    The hand utters more than the brain,

    When turning the hour-glass again!

    The King in a carriage may ride,

    And the Beggar may crawl at his side;

    But, in the general race,

    They are travelling all the same pace,

    And houses, and trees, and highway,

    Are in the same gallop as they:

    We mark our steps in the train,

    When turning the hour-glass again!

    People complain, with a sigh,

    How terribly Chroniclers lie;

    But there is one pretty right,

    Heard in the dead of the night,

    Calling aloud to the people,

    Out of St. Dunstan’s Steeple,

    Telling them under the vane,

    To turn their hour-glasses again!

    Masters! we live here for ever,

    Like so many fish in a river;

    We may mope, tumble, or glide,

    And eat one another beside;

    But whithersoever we go,

    The River will flow, flow, flow!

    And now, that I’ve ended my strain,

    Pray turn me that hour-glass again!