Verse > Anthologies > Herbert J.C. Grierson, ed. > Metaphysical Lyrics & Poems of the 17th c.
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Herbert J.C. Grierson, ed. (1886–1960). Metaphysical Lyrics & Poems of the 17th C.  1921.
 
John Hall
 
141. On an Houre-glasse
 
MY Life is measur'd by this glasse, this glasse 
By all those little Sands that thorough passe. 
See how they presse, see how they strive, which shall 
With greatest speed and greatest quicknesse fall. 
See how they raise a little Mount, and then         5
With their owne weight doe levell it agen. 
But when th' have all got thorough, they give o're 
Their nimble sliding downe, and move no more. 
Just such is man whose houres still forward run, 
Being almost finisht ere they are begun;  10
So perfect nothings, such light blasts are we, 
That ere w'are ought at all, we cease to be. 
Do what we will, our hasty minutes fly, 
And while we sleep, what do we else but die? 
How transient are our Joyes, how short their day!  15
They creepe on towards us, but flie away. 
How stinging are our sorrowes! where they gaine 
But the least footing, there they will remaine. 
How groundlesse are our hopes, how they deceive 
Our childish thoughts, and onely sorrow leave!  20
How reall are our feares! they blast us still, 
Still rend us, still with gnawing passions fill; 
How senselesse are our wishes, yet how great! 
With what toile we pursue them, with what sweat! 
Yet most times for our hurts, so small we see,  25
Like Children crying for some Mercurie. 
This gapes for Marriage, yet his fickle head 
Knows not what cares waite on a Marriage bed. 
This vowes Virginity, yet knowes not what 
Lonenesse, griefe, discontent, attends that state.  30
Desires of wealth anothers wishes hold, 
And yet how many have been choak't with Gold? 
This onely hunts for honour, yet who shall 
Ascend the higher, shall more wretched fall. 
This thirsts for knowledge, yet how is it bought  35
With many a sleeplesse night and racking thought? 
This needs will travell, yet how dangers lay 
Most secret Ambuscado's in the way? 
These triumph in their Beauty, though it shall 
Like a pluck't Rose or fading Lillie fall.  40
Another boasts strong armes, 'las Giants have 
By silly Dwarfes been drag'd unto their grave. 
These ruffle in rich silke, though ne're so gay, 
A well plum'd Peacock is more gay then they. 
Poore man, what art! A Tennis ball of Errour,  45
A Ship of Glasse toss'd in a Sea of terrour, 
Issuing in blood and sorrow from the wombe, 
Crauling in teares and mourning to the tombe, 
How slippery are thy pathes, how sure thy fall, 
How art thou Nothing when th' art most of all!  50
 
 
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