Life’s Uncertainty

The king looks well, red in its proper place
The middle of the cheek, and his eye’s round
Black as a bit of night.

Yet men die suddenly:
One sits upon a strong and rocky life,
Watching a street of many opulent years,
And Hope’s his mason. Well! to-day do this,
And so to-morrow; twenty hollow years
Are stuffed with action:—lo! upon his head
Drops a pin’s point of time; tick! quoth the clock,
And the grave snaps him.

Such things may have been;
The crevice ‘twixt two after-dinner minutes,
The crack between a pair of syllables,
May sometimes be a grave as deep as ’tis
From noon to midnight in the hoop of time.
But for this man, his life wears ever steel
From which disease drops blunted. If indeed
Death lay in the market-place, or were—but hush!
See you the tremble of that myrtle bough?
Does no one listen?

Nothing with a tongue:
The grass is dumb since Midas, and no Æsop
Translates the crow or hog. Within the myrtle
Sits a hen-robin, trembling like a star,
Over her brittle eggs.

Is it no more?

Nought: let her hatch.

[Kelsall, 1851]