Phineas Fletcher

(1582 - 1650 / England)

Instability of Human Greatness


Fond man, that looks on earth for happiness,
And here long seeks what here is never found!
For all our good we hold from Heaven by lease,
With many forfeits and conditions bound;
Nor can we pay the fine and rentage due;
Though now but writ, and sealed, and given anew,
Yet daily we it break, then daily must renew.

Why shouldst thou here look for perpetual good,
At every loss 'gainst Heaven's face repining?
Do but behold where glorious cities stood,
With gilded tops and silver turrets shining;
There now the heart, fearless of greyhound, feeds,
And loving pelican in safety breeds:
There screeching satyrs fill the people's empty stedes.

Where is the Assyrian lion's golden hide,
That all the East once grasp'd in lordly paw?
Where that great Persian bear, whose swelling pride
The lion's self tore out with rav'nous jaw?
Or he who, 'twixt a lion and a pard,
Through all the world with nimble pinions fared,
And to his greedy whelps his conquer'd kingdoms shared.

Hardly the place of such antiquity,
Or note of those great monarchies we find:
Only a fading verbal memory,
And empty name, in writ is left behind:
But when this second life and glory fades,
And sinks at length in Time's obscurer shades,
A second fall succeeds, and double death invades.

Submitted: Wednesday, April 21, 2010

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