Gems from the Old English Poets.

Vanity of Riches.

Why dost thou heap up wealth, which thou must quit,1
Or, what is worse, be left by it ?2
Why dost thou load thyself, when thou’rt to fly,3
Oh man ordain’d to die ?4
Why dost thou build up stately rooms on high,5
Thou who art underground to lie ?6
Thou sow’st and plantest, but no fruit must see,7
For death, alas! is sowing thee.8
Thou dost thyself wise and industrious deem ;9
A mighty husband * thou wouldst seem ;10
Fond man ! like a bought slave, thou all the while11
Dost but for others sweat and toil.12
Officious fool! thou needs must meddling be13
In business that concerns not thee !14
For when to future years thou extend’st thy cares,15
Thou deal’st in other men’s affairs.16
Ev’n aged men, as if they truly were17
Children again, for age prepare ;18
Provisions for long travel they design,19
In the last point of their short line.20
Wisely the ant against poor winter hoards21
The stock which summer’s wealth affords ;22
In grasshoppers, which must in autumn die,23
How vain were such an industry !24
Of pow’r and honour the deceitful light25
Might half excuse our cheated sight,26
If it of life the whole small time would stay,27
And be our sunshine all the day ;—28
Like lightning that, begot but in a cloud,29
(Though shining bright, and speaking loud),30
Whilst it begins, concludes its violent race,31
And where it gilds, it wounds the place.32
Oh, scene of fortune, which dost fair appear33
Only to men that stand not near !34
Proud poverty, that tinsel brav’ry wears ;35
And, like a rainbow, painted tears !36
Be prudent, and the shore in prospect keep ;37
In a weak boat trust not the deep :38
Plac’d beneath envy, above envying rise ;39
Pity great men, great things despise.40
The wise example of the heav’nly lark,41
Thy fellow-poet, Cowley, mark ;—42
Above the clouds let thy proud music sound,43
Thy humble nest build on the ground.44
* A great economist.