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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. The Book of Elizabethan Verse. 1907.

The World

Francis Bacon (1561–1626)

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 part is turned 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:

These 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?

Our own 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’re worse in peace:

—What then remains, but that we still should cry

For being born, or, being born, to die?