Ave Caesar Imperator, moriturum te saluto.
O Death, a little more, and then the worm;
A little longer, O Death, a little yet,
Before the grave gape and the grave-worm fret;
Before the sanguine-spotted hand infirm
Be rottenness, and that foul brain, the germ
Of all ill things and thoughts, be stopped and set;
A little while, O Death, ere he forget,
A small space more of life, a little term;
A little longer ere he and thou be met,
Ere in that hand that fed thee to thy mind
The poison-cup of life be overset;
A little respite of disastrous breath,
Till the soul lift up her lost eyes, and find
Nor God nor help nor hope, but thee, O Death.
Shall a man die before his dying day,
Death? and for him though the utter day be nigh,
Not yet, not yet we give him leave to die;
We give him grace not yet that men should say
He is dead, wiped out, perished and past away.
Till the last bitterness of life go by,
Thou shalt not slay him; till those last dregs run dry,
O thou last lord of life! thou shalt not slay.
Let the lips live a little while and lie,
The hand a little, and falter, and fail of strength,
And the soul shudder and sicken at the sky;
Yea, let him live, though God nor man would let
Save for the curse' sake; then at bitter length,
Lord, will we yield him to thee, but not yet.
Hath he not deeds to do and days to see
Yet ere the day that is to see him dead?
Beats there no brain yet in the poisonous head,
Throbs there no treason? if no such thing there be,
If no such thought, surely this is not he.
Look to the hands then; are the hands not red?
What are the shadows about this man's bed?
Death, was not this the cupbearer to thee?
Nay, let him live then, till in this life's stead
Even he shall pray for that thou hast to give;
Till seeing his hopes and not his memories fled
Even he shall cry upon thee a bitter cry,
That life is worse than death; then let him live,
Till death seem worse than life; then let him die.
O watcher at the guardless gate of kings,
O doorkeeper that serving at their feast
Hast in thine hand their doomsday drink, and seest
With eyeless sight the soul of unseen things;
Thou in whose ear the dumb time coming sings,
Death, priest and king that makest of king and priest
A name, a dream, a less thing than the least,
Hover awhile above him with closed wings,
Till the coiled soul, an evil snake-shaped beast,
Eat its base bodily lair of flesh away;
If haply, or ever its cursed life have ceased,
Or ever thy cold hands cover his head
From sight of France and freedom and broad day,
He may see these and wither and be dead.