John Hay

(8 October 1838 – 1 July 1905 / Salem, Indiana)

A Phylactery Poem by John Hay


Wise men I hold those rakes of old
Who, as we read in antique story,
When lyres were struck and wine was poured,
Set the white Death's Head on the board-
Memento mori.

Love well! love truly! and love fast!
True love evades the dilatory.
Life's bloom flares like a meteor past;
A joy so dazzling cannot last
Memento mori.

Stop not to pluck the leaves of bay
That greenly deck the path of glory,
The wreath will wither if you stay,
So pass along your earnest way
Memento mori.

Hear but not heed, though wild and shrill,
The cries of faction transitory;
Cleave to your good, eschew your ill,
A Hundred Years and all is still
Memento mori.

When Old Age comes with muffled drums,
That beat to sleep our tired life's story,
On thoughts of dying, (Rest is good!)
Like old snakes coiled i' the sun, we brood-
Memento mori.

Submitted: Saturday, January 4, 2003

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