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Poem by Anne Bradstreet


The Vanity of All Worldly Things


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 isnt in honor to be set on high?
No, they like beasts and sons of men shall die,
And whilst they live, how oft doth turn their fate;
Hes now a captive that was king of late.
What isnt in wealth great treasures to obtain?
No, thats but labor, anxious care, and pain.
He heaps up riches, and he heaps up sorrow,
Its his today, but whos his heir tomorrow?
What then? Content in pleasures canst thou find?
More vain than all, thats but to grasp the wind.
The sensual senses for a time they pleasure,
Meanwhile the conscience rage, who shall appease?
What isnt in beauty? No thats but a snare,
Theyre foul enough today, that once were fair.
What ist 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 the mind.
And he that know the most doth still bemoan
He knows not all that here is to be known.
What is it then? To do as stoics tell,
Nor laugh, nor weep, let things go ill or well?
Such stoics are but stocks, such teaching vain,
While man is man, he shall have ease or pain.
If not in honor, beauty, age, nor treasure,
Nor yet in learning, wisdom, 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 and sea have said  tis not in me,
With pearl and gold it shall not valued be.
For sapphire, onyx, topaz who would change;
Its hid from eyes of men, they count it strange.
Death and destruction the fame hath heard,
But where and what it is, from heavens declared;
It brings to honor which shall neer decay,
It stores with wealth which time cant wear away.
It yieldeth pleasures far beyond conceit,
And truly beautifies without deceit.
Nor strength, nor wisdom, 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.



Anne Bradstreet


Anne Bradstreet's other poems:
  1. Deliverance from a Fit of Fainting
  2. For the Restoration of My Dear Husband from a Burning Ague, June, 1661
  3. To Her Most Honoured Father Thomas Dudley Esq; These Humbly Presented
  4. For Deliverance from a Feaver
  5. Upon Some Distemper of Body


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