The Vanity Of All Worldly Things

By Anne Bradstreet

    As he said vanity, so vain say I,
    Oh! vanity, O vain all under Sky;
    Where is the man can say, lo, I have found
    On brittle Earth a Consolation sound?
    What is’t in honour to be set on high?
    No, they like Beasts and Sons of men shall dye,
    And whil’st they live, how oft doth turn their fate;
    He’s now a captive that was King of late.
    What is’t in wealth, great Treasures to obtain?
    No that’s but labour, anxious care and pain.
    He heaps up riches, and he heaps up sorrow,
    It’s his to day, but who’s his heir to morrow?
    What then? Content in pleasures canst thou find,
    More vain then all, that’s but to grasp the wind.
    The sensual senses for a time they please.
    Mean while the conscience rage, who shall appease?
    What is’t in beauty? No that’s but a snare,
    They’re foul enough to day, that once were fair.
    What is’t in flowring youth, or manly age?
    The first is prone to vice, the last to rage.
    Where is it then, in wisdom, learning, arts?
    Sure if on earth, it must be in those parts:
    Yet these the wisest man of men did find
    But vanity, vexation of mind.
    And he that knowes the most, doth still bemoan
    He knows not all that here is to be known.
    What is it then, to doe as Stoicks tell,
    Nor laugh, nor weep, let things go ill or well.
    Such Stoicks are but Stocks such teaching vain,
    While man is man, he shall have ease or pain.
    If not in honour beauty, age nor treasure,
    Nor yet in learning wisdome youth nor pleasure,
    Where shall I climb, sound, seek search or find
    That Summum bonum which may stay my mind?
    There is a path, no vultures eye hath seen,
    Where Lion fierce, nor lions whelps have been,
    Which leads unto that living Crystal Fount,
    Who drinks thereof, the world doth naught account.
    The depth & sea have said tis not in me,
    With pearl and gold, it shall not valued be.
    For Saphire, Onix, Topaz who would change:
    Its hid from eyes of men, they count it strange.
    Death and destruction the fame hath heard,
    But where & what it is, from heaven’s declar’d,
    It brings to honour which shall ne’re decay.
    It stores with wealth which time can’t wear away.
    It yieldeth pleasures far beyond conceit,
    And truly beautifies without deceit.
    Nor strength, nor wisdome nor fresh youth shall fade,
    Nor death shall see, but are immortal made.
    This pearl of price, this tree of life, this spring
    Who is possessed of, shall reign a King.
    Nor change of state, nor cares shall ever see,
    But wear his crown unto eternity.
    This satiates the Soul, this stays the mind,
    And all the rest, but Vanity we find.

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