Home  »  English Poetry I  »  227. Life

English Poetry I: From Chaucer to Gray.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

Francis Bacon, Viscount St. Alban

227. Life

THE WORLD’S a bubble and the life of Man

Less than a span;

In his conception wretched, from the womb

So to the tomb;

Curst from his cradle, and brought up to years

With cares and fears.

Who then to frail mortality shall trust,

But limns on water, or but writes in dust.

Yet whilst with sorrow here we live opprest,

What life is best?

Courts are but only superficial schools

To dandle fools:

The rural parts are turn’d into a den

Of savage men:

And where’s a city from foul vice so free,

But may be termed the worst of all the three?

Domestic cares afflict the husband’s bed,

Or pains his head:

Those that live single, take it for a curse

Or do things worse:

Some would have children: those that have them moan

Or wish them gone:

What is it, then, to have, or have no wife,

But single thraldom or a double strife?

But our affections still at home to please

Is a disease:

To cross the seas to any foreign soil,

Peril and toil:

Wars with their noise affright us: when they cease,

We are worse in peace;—

What then remains, but that we still should cry

For being born, or being born, to die?