And thus Death laughs, — it is sad merriment,
But still it is so; and with such example
Why should not Life be equally content
With his superior, in a smile to trample
Upon the nothings which are daily spent
Like bubbles on an ocean much less ample
Than the eternal deluge, which devours
Suns as rays — worlds like atoms — years like hours?
'To be, or not to be? that is the question,'
Says Shakspeare, who just now is much in fashion.
I am neither Alexander nor Hephaestion,
Nor ever had for abstract fame much passion;
But would much rather have a sound digestion
Than Buonaparte's cancer: could I dash on
Through fifty victories to shame or fame —
Without a stomach what were a good name?
'O dura ilia messorum!' — 'Oh
Ye rigid guts of reapers!' I translate
For the great benefit of those who know
What indigestion is — that inward fate
Which makes all Styx through one small liver flow.
A peasant's sweat is worth his lord's estate:
Let this one toil for bread — that rack for rent,
He who sleeps best may be the most content.
'To be, or not to be?' — Ere I decide,
I should be glad to know that which is being?
'T is true we speculate both far and wide,
And deem, because we see, we are all-seeing:
For my part, I 'll enlist on neither side,
Until I see both sides for once agreeing.
For me, I sometimes think that life is death,
Rather than life a mere affair of breath.
'Que scais-je?' was the motto of Montaigne,
As also of the first academicians:
That all is dubious which man may attain,
Was one of their most favourite positions.
There 's no such thing as certainty, that 's plain
As any of Mortality's conditions;
So little do we know what we 're about in
This world, I doubt if doubt itself be doubting.
It is a pleasant voyage perhaps to float,
Like Pyrrho, on a sea of speculation;
But what if carrying sail capsize the boat?
Your wise men don't know much of navigation;
And swimming long in the abyss of thought
Is apt to tire: a calm and shallow station
Well nigh the shore, where one stoops down and gathers
Some pretty shell, is best for moderate bathers.
'But heaven,' as Cassio says, 'is above all —
No more of this, then, — let us pray!' We have
Souls to save, since Eve's slip and Adam's fall,
Which tumbled all mankind into the grave,
Besides fish, beasts, and birds. 'The sparrow's fall
Is special providence,' though how it gave
Offence, we know not; probably it perch'd
Upon the tree which Eve so fondly search'd.
O, ye immortal gods! what is theogony?
O, thou too, mortal man! what is philanthropy?
O, world! which was and is, what is cosmogony?
Some people have accused me of misanthropy;
And yet I know no more than the mahogany
That forms this desk, of what they mean; lykanthropy
I comprehend, for without transformation
Men become wolves on any slight occasion.
But I, the mildest, meekest of mankind,
Like Moses, or Melancthon, who have ne'er
Done anything exceedingly unkind, —
And (though I could not now and then forbear
Following the bent of body or of mind)
Have always had a tendency to spare, —
Why do they call me misanthrope? Because
They hate me, not I them. — and here we 'll pause.
'T is time we should proceed with our good poem, —
For I maintain that it is really good,
Not only in the body but the proem,
However little both are understood
Just now, — but by and by the Truth will show 'em
Herself in her sublimest attitude:
And till she doth, I fain must be content
To share her beauty and her banishment.