A poem by William Cowper

Subjoined To The Yearly Bill Of Mortality Of The Parish Of All Saints, Northampton, Anno Domini 1787.

(Composed for John Cox, parish clerk of Northampton.)

Pallida mors æquo pulsat pede pauperum tabernas,
Regumque turres.—Horace.

Pale death with equal foot strikes wide the door
Of royal halls and hovels of the poor.

While thirteen moons saw smoothly run
The Nen’s barge-laden wave,
All these, life’s rambling journey done,
Have found their home, the grave.

Was man (frail always) made more frail
Than in foregoing years?
Did famine or did plague prevail,
That so much death appears?

No; these were vigorous as their sires,
Nor plague nor famine came;
This annual tribute Death requires,
And never waves his claim.

Like crowded forest trees we stand,
And some are mark’d to fall;
The axe will smite at God’s command,
And soon shall smite us all.

Green as the bay-tree, ever green,
With its new foliage on,
The gay, the thoughtless, have I seen,
I pass’d—and they were gone.

Read, ye that run, the awful truth
With which I charge my page;
A worm is in the bud of youth,
And at the root of age.

No present health can health ensure
For yet an hour to come;
No medicine, though it oft can cure,
Can always balk the tomb.

And O! that, humble as my lot,
And scorn’d as is my strain,
These truths, though known, too much forgot,
I may not teach in vain.

So prays your clerk with all his heart,
And, ere he quits the pen,
Begs you for once to take his part,
And answer all—Amen!

Reader Comments

Tell us what you think of 'Stanzas.' by William Cowper

comments powered by Disqus