What is th’Existence of Mans life?
But open war, or slumber’d strife.
Where sickness to his sense presents
The combat of the Elements:
And never feels a perfect Peace
Till deaths cold hand signs his release.
It is a storm where the hot blood
Out-vies in rage the boyling flood;
And each loud Passion of the mind
Is like a furious gust of wind,
Which beats his Bark with many a Wave
Till he casts Anchor in the Grave.
It is a flower which buds and growes,
And withers as the leaves disclose;
Whose spring and fall faint seasons keep,
Like fits of waking before sleep:
Then shrinks into that fatal mold
Where its first being was enroll’d.
It is a dream, whose seeming truth
Is moraliz’d in age and youth:
Where all the comforts he can share
As wandring as his fancies are;
Till in a mist of dark decay
The dreamer vanish quite away.
It is a Diall, which points out
The Sun-set as it moves about:
And shadowes out in lines of night
The subtile stages of times flight,
Till all obscuring earth hath laid
The body in perpetual shade.
It is a weary enterlude
Which doth short joyes, long woes include.
The World the Stage, the Prologue tears,
The Acts vain hope, and vary’d fears:
The Scene shuts up with loss of breath,
And leaves no Epilogue but Death.
—Henry King (1592-1669)