Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. II. Ben Jonson to Dryden
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. II. The Seventeenth Century: Ben Jonson to Dryden
 
Third Chorus from The Tragedy of Darius
By William Alexander, Earl of Stirling (1567?–1640)
 
  TIME, through Jove’s judgment just,
  Huge alteration brings;
  Those are but fools who trust
  In transitory things,
  Whose tails bear mortal stings,        5
  Which in the end will wound;
  And let none think it strange,
  Though all things earthly change:
  In this inferior round
  What is from ruin free?        10
  The elements which be
  At variance, as we see,
  Each th’ other doth confound:
  The earth and air make war,
  The fire and water are        15
  Still wrestling at debate,
  All those through cold and heat
  Through drought and moisture jar.
What wonder though men change and fade
Who of those changing elements are made?        20
 
  How dare vain worldlings vaunt
  Of Fortune’s goods not lasting,
  Evils which our wits enchant?
  Expos’d to loss and wasting!
  Lo, we to death are hasting,        25
  Whilst we those things discuss.
  All things from their beginning
  Still to an end are running,
  Heaven hath ordained it thus;
  We hear how it doth thunder,        30
  We see th’ earth burst asunder,
  And yet we never ponder
  What this imports to us:
  These fearful signs do prove
  That th’ angry powers above        35
  Are mov’d to indignation
  Against this wretched nation,
  Which they no longer love:
What are we but a puff of breath
Who live assured of nothing but of death?        40
 
  Who was so happy yet
  As never had some cross?
  Though on a throne he sit,
  And is not vexed with loss,
  Yet fortune once will toss        45
  Him, when that least he would;
  If one had all at once
  Hydaspes’ precious stones
  And yellow Tagus’ gold;
  The oriental treasure        50
  And every earthly pleasure,
  Even in the greatest measure
  It should not make him bold:
  For while he lives secure,
  His state is most unsure;        55
  When it doth least appear
  Some heavy plague draws near,
  Destruction to procure.
World’s glory is but like a flower,
Which both is bloom’d and blasted in an hour.        60
 
  In what we most repose
  We find our comfort light,
  The thing we soonest lose
  That ’s precious in our sight;
  In honour, riches, might,        65
  Our lives in pawn we lay;
  Yet all like flying shadows,
  Or flowers enameling meadows,
  Do vanish and decay.
  Long time we toil to find        70
  These idols of the mind,
  Which had, we cannot bind
  To bide with us one day.
  Then why should we presume
  On treasures that consume,        75
  Difficult to obtain,
  Difficult to retain,
  A dream, a breath, a fume?
Which vex them most that them possess,
Who starve with store and famish with excess.        80
 
 
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