13 January 2014

The Mockery of Life

Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, "The Mockery of Life," The Love-Lyrics and Songs of Proteus (London: The Kelmscott Press, 1892), pp. 183-185:
God! What a mockery is this life of ours!
Cast forth in blood and pain from our mother's womb,
Most like an excrement, and weeping showers
Of senseless tears: unreasoning, naked, dumb,
The symbol of all weakness and the sum:
Our very life a sufferance. — Presently,
Grown stronger, we must fight for standing-room
Upon the earth, and the bare liberty
To breathe and move. We crave the right to toil.
We push, we strive, we jostle with the rest.
We learn new courage, stifle our old fears,
Stand with stiff backs, take part in every broil.
It may be that we love, that we are blest.
It may be, for a little space of years,
We conquer fate and half forget our tears.

And then fate strikes us. First our joys decay.
Youth, with its pleasures, is a tale soon told.
We grow a little poorer day by day.
Old friendships falter. Loves grow strangely cold.
In vain we shift our hearts to a new hold
And barter joy for joy, the less for less.
We doubt our strength, our wisdom, and our gold.
We stand alone, as in a wilderness
Of doubts and terrors. Then, if we be wise,
We make our terms with fate and, while we may,
Sell our life's last sad remnant for a hope.
And it is wisdom thus to close our eyes.
But for the foolish, those who cannot pray,
What else remains of their dark horoscope
But a tall tree and courage and a rope ?

And who shall tell what ignominy death
Has yet in store for us; what abject fears
Even for the best of us; what fights for breath;
What sobs, what supplications, what wild tears;
What impotence of soul against despairs
Which blot out reason? — The last trembling thought
Of each poor brain, as dissolution nears,
Is not of fair life lost, of Heaven bought
And glory won. 'Tis not the thought of grief;
Of friends deserted; loving hearts which bleed;
Wives, sisters, children who around us weep.
But only a mad clutching for relief
From physical pain, importunate Nature's need:
The search as for a womb where we may creep
Back from the world, to hide, — perhaps to sleep.