Home  »  A Library of American Literature  »  De Profundis

Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

De Profundis

By Henry Charles Lea (1825–1909)

WE are born, we know not why,

We toil, through want and care;

Worn out, at last we die,

And go, we know not where.

We suffer, we inflict,

Unknowing what we do:

We gain, to find us tricked;

We lose, to idly rue.

If the soul, impatient, aims

At something higher, better,

The flesh asserts its claims,

And will not loose its fetter.

Nor Hindu sage, nor Greek

Can aid our impotence:

The highest goal they seek

Is dumb indifference.

The Christian’s nobler plan

But palliates the ill:

All man can do for man

Leaves Earth in misery still.

The riddle who can read?

Who guess the reason why?

We know but this, indeed,

We are born, we grieve, we die!