Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and Holland: Vols. XIV–XV. 1876–79.

Spain: Irun

The Clock

By Théophile Gautier (1811–1872)

Translated by C. F. Bates

“Vulnerant omnes, ultima necat.”

OF great, gray stones is built this structure poor,

No sculptured angels do the eye allure,

Nor rib nor frieze is here to decorate,

But just a clock with wooden dial-plate,

Whose Roman letters, sponged by rain so much,

O’errun a face which undergoes no touch.

The eye, by chance, upon the dial falls;

Like words of flame upon Belshazzar’s walls,

Like the inscription on the door accurst,

This phrase, black-lettered, on the sight will burst,—

Four solemn words, four words of Latin state,—

And all in passing here may read their fate:

“Each hour doth wound us, and the last doth slay!”

Yes, life is truceless warfare day by day,

Unequal warfare with an ambushed foe,

One still untouched by our most skilful blow;

As in a target, in our riddled hearts

Quiver the unseen archer’s hurléd darts.

Condemned we are,—all, all of us must die,

And death begins with life’s beginning sigh.