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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

The Lesson of Life

By Roger Wolcott (1679–1767)

[Born in Windsor, Conn., 1679. Died there, 1767. Poetical Meditations; Being the Improvement of some Vacant Hours. 1725.]

AND is our life a life wherein we borrow,

No, not the smallest respite from our sorrow?

Our profits are they but some yellow dust,

Subject to loss, to canker-eat and rust;

Whose very image breedeth ceaseless cares

In every mind where it dominion bears?

And are our pleasures mainly in excess,

Which genders gilt and ends in bitterness?

Are honors fickle and dependent stuff,

Oft-times blown furthest from us by a puff?

Doth pale-fac’d envy wait at every stage,

To bite and wound us in our pilgrimage?

Is all we have, or hope, but adventure?

Then here’s naught worth our stay, let us encounter

The King of Terrors bravely, undismay’d,

As gallant Aria to her Pætus said.

And so might be my choice, but that I see

Hell’s flashes folding through eternity;

And hear damn’d company, that there remain,

For very anguish, gnaw their tongues in twain.

Then him for happy I will never praise,

That’s filled with honor, wealth, or length of days;

But happy he, though in a dying hour,

O’er whom the Second Death obtains no power.