Death never yet surprised the sage,
Who′s always ready for the stage;
Knowing each hour that comes may be
His passage to eternity.
Death′s rule embraces every day:
Each moment is beneath his sway.
We all pay tribute to that lord;
We all bow down beneath his sword.
The instant the king′s child has birth—
And looks forth on this desert earth—-
That instant Death may it surprise,
And close its scarcely-opened eyes.
Beauty, youth, virtue, every day,
Death steals so ruthlessly away.
One day the world will be his prey:
This knowledge is most largely shared;
For no event we′re less prepared.
A dying man, a century old,
Complained to Death, that he was told
Too suddenly, before his will
Was made; he′d duties to fulfil;
"Now, is it just," this was his cry,
"To call me, unprepared, to die?
No; wait a moment, pray, sir, do;
My wife would wish to join me, too.
For still one nephew I′d provide:
And I have causes to decide.
I must enlarge my house, you know.
Don′t be so pressing, pray, sir, go."
"Old man," said Death, "for once be wise;
My visit can be no surprise.
What! I impatient? In the throng
Of Paris who has lived so long?
Find me in all France even ten;
I should have warned you, you say then?
And so your will you would have made,
Your grandson settled; basement laid.
What! not a warning, when your feet
Can scarcely move, and fast retreat
Your memory makes, when half your mind
And wit is left a league behind?
When nearly all fails?—no more hearing—
No taste—all fading, as I′m fearing.
The star of day shines now in vain
For you: why sigh to view again
The pleasures out of reach? Just see
Your comrades drop continually,
Dead, dying: is no warning there?
I put it to you, is this fair?
Come, come, old man; what! wrangling still?
No matter, you must leave your will;
The great republic cares not, sir,
For one or no executor."
And Death was right: old men, at least,
Should die as people leave a feast,
Thanking the host—their luggage trim:
Death will not stay to please their whim.
You murmur, dotard! look and sigh,
To see the young, that daily die;
Walk to the grave or run, a name
To win of everlasting fame:
Death glorious may be, yet how sure,
And sometimes cruel to endure.
In vain I preach; with foolish zeal,
Those most akin to death but feel
The more regret in quitting life,
And creep reluctant from the strife.