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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

John Milton (1608–1674)

Epitaph for an Old University Carrier

HERE lieth one who did most truly prove

That he could never die while he could move;

So hung his destiny, never to rot

While he might still jog on and keep his trot;

Made of sphere-metal, never to decay

Until his revolution was at stay.

Time numbers motion, yet (without a crime

’Gainst old truth) motion number’d out his time,

And, like an engine moved with wheel and weight,

His principles being ceased, he ended straight.

Rest, that gives all men life, gave him his death,

And too much breathing put him out of breath.

Nor were it contradiction to affirm,

Too long vacation hastened on his term.

Merely to drive away the time, he sicken’d,

Fainted, died, nor would with ale be quicken’d.

“Nay,” quoth he, on his swooning bed outstretch’d,

“If I mayn’t carry, sure I’ll ne’er be fetch’d,

But vow, though the cross doctors all stood hearers,

For one carrier put down to make six bearers.”

Ease was his chief disease; and, to judge right,

He died for heaviness that his cart went light.

His leisure told him that his time was come,

And lack of load made his life burdensome,

That even to his last breath (there be that say’t),

As he were press’d to death, he cried, “More weight!”

But had his doings lasted as they were,

He had been an immortal carrier.

Obedient to the moon, he spent his date

In course reciprocal, and had his fate

Link’d to the mutual flowing of the seas,

Yet (strange to think) his wain was his increase.

His letters are deliver’d all and gone;

Only remains this superscription.