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

William Knox (1789–1825)

Oh, Why Should the Spirit of Mortal Be Proud?

OH, why should the spirit of mortal be proud?

Like a swift-fleeting meteor, a fast-flying cloud,

A flash of the lightning, a break of the wave,

He passes from life to his rest in the grave.

The leaves of the oak and the willow shall fade,

Be scattered around, and together be laid;

And the young and the old, and the low and the high,

Shall moulder to dust, and together shall lie.

The infant a mother attended and loved,

The mother that infant’s affection who proved,

The husband that mother and infant who blest

Each, all, are away to their dwelling of rest.

The hand of the king that the sceptre hath borne,

The brow of the priest that the mitre hath worn,

The eye of the sage, and the heart of the brave,

Are hidden and lost in the depths of the grave.

The maid on whose cheek, on whose brow, in whose eye,

Shone beauty and pleasure—her triumphs are by;

And the memory of those that beloved her and praised

Are alike from the minds of the living erased.

The saint who enjoyed the communion of heaven,

The sinner who dared to remain unforgiven,

The wise and the foolish, the guilty and just

Have quietly mingled their bones in the dust.

So the multitude goes, like the flower and the weed

That wither away to let others succeed;

So the multitude comes, even those we behold,

To repeat every tale that hath often been told.

For we are the same that our fathers have been;

We see the same sights our fathers have seen;

We drink the same stream, and we feel the same sun,

And run the same course that our fathers have run.

The thoughts we are thinking our fathers would think;

From the death we are shrinking our fathers would shrink;

To the life we are clinging they also would cling;

But it speeds from the earth like a bird on the wing.

Yea! hope and despondency, pleasure and pain,

Are mingled together like sunshine and rain;

And the smile and the tear, the song and the dirge

Still follow each other, like surge upon surge.

’Tis the twink of an eye, ’tis the draught of a breath,

From the blossom of health to the paleness of death,

From the gilded saloon to the bier and the shroud:—

Oh, why should the spirit of mortal be proud?