Therefore death to us Is nothing, nor concerns us in the least, Since nature of mind is mortal evermore. And just as in the ages gone before We felt no touch of ill, when all sides round To battle came the Carthaginian host, And the times, shaken by tumultuous war, Under the aery coasts of arching heaven Shuddered and trembled, and all humankind Doubted to which the empery should fall By land and sea, thus when we are no more, When comes that sundering of our body and soul Through which we're fashioned to a single state, Verily naught to us, us then no more, Can come to pass, naught move our senses then— No, not if earth confounded were with sea, And sea with heaven. But if indeed do feel The nature of mind and energy of soul, After their severance from this body of ours, Yet nothing 'tis to us who in the bonds And wedlock of the soul and body live, Through which we're fashioned to a single state. And, even if time collected after death The matter of our frames and set it all Again in place as now, and if again To us the light of life were given, O yet That process too would not concern us aught, When once the self-succession of our sense Has been asunder broken. And now and here, Little enough we're busied with the selves We were aforetime, nor, concerning them, Suffer a sore distress. For shouldst thou gaze Backwards across all yesterdays of time The immeasurable, thinking how manifold The motions of matter are, then couldst thou well Credit this too: often these very seeds (From which we are to-day) of old were set In the same order as they are to-day— Yet this we can't to consciousness recall Through the remembering mind. For there hath been An interposed pause of life, and wide Have all the motions wandered everywhere From these our senses. For if woe and ail Perchance are toward, then the man to whom The bane can happen must himself be there At that same time. But death precludeth this, Forbidding life to him on whom might crowd Such irk and care; and granted 'tis to know: Nothing for us there is to dread in death, No wretchedness for him who is no more, The same estate as if ne'er born before, When death immortal hath ta'en the mortal life. Hence, where thou seest a man to grieve because When dead he rots with body laid away, Or perishes in flames or jaws of beasts, Know well: he rings not true, and that beneath Still works an unseen sting upon his heart, However he deny that he believes. His shall be aught of feeling after death. For he, I fancy, grants not what he says, Nor what that presupposes, and he fails To pluck himself with all his roots from life And cast that self away, quite unawares Feigning that some remainder's left behind. For when in life one pictures to oneself His body dead by beasts and vultures torn, He pities his state, dividing not himself Therefrom, removing not the self enough From the body flung away, imagining Himself that body, and projecting there His own sense, as he stands beside it: hence He grieves that he is mortal born, nor marks That in true death there is no second self Alive and able to sorrow for self destroyed, Or stand lamenting that the self lies there Mangled or burning. For if it an evil is Dead to be jerked about by jaw and fang Of the wild brutes, I see not why 'twere not Bitter to lie on fires and roast in flames, Or suffocate in honey, and, reclined On the smooth oblong of an icy slab, Grow stiff in cold, or sink with load of earth Down-crushing from above. "Thee now no more The joyful house and best of wives shall welcome, Nor little sons run up to snatch their kisses And touch with silent happiness thy heart. Thou shalt not speed in undertakings more, Nor be the warder of thine own no more. Poor wretch," they say, "one hostile hour hath ta'en Wretchedly from thee all life's many guerdons," But add not, "yet no longer unto thee Remains a remnant of desire for them" If this they only well perceived with mind And followed up with maxims, they would free Their state of man from anguish and from fear. "O even as here thou art, aslumber in death, So shalt thou slumber down the rest of time, Released from every harrying pang. But we, We have bewept thee with insatiate woe, Standing beside whilst on the awful pyre Thou wert made ashes; and no day shall take For us the eternal sorrow from the breast." But ask the mourner what's the bitterness That man should waste in an eternal grief, If, after all, the thing's but sleep and rest? For when the soul and frame together are sunk In slumber, no one then demands his self Or being. Well, this sleep may be forever, Without desire of any selfhood more, For all it matters unto us asleep. Yet not at all do those primordial germs Roam round our members, at that time, afar From their own motions that produce our senses— Since, when he's startled from his sleep, a man Collects his senses. Death is, then, to us Much less—if there can be a less than that Which is itself a nothing: for there comes Hard upon death a scattering more great Of the throng of matter, and no man wakes up On whom once falls the icy pause of life. This too, O often from the soul men say, Along their couches holding of the cups, With faces shaded by fresh wreaths awry: "Brief is this fruit of joy to paltry man, Soon, soon departed, and thereafter, no, It may not be recalled."—As if, forsooth, It were their prime of evils in great death To parch, poor tongues, with thirst and arid drought, Or chafe for any lack. Once more, if Nature Should of a sudden send a voice abroad, And her own self inveigh against us so: "Mortal, what hast thou of such grave concern That thou indulgest in too sickly plaints? Why this bemoaning and beweeping death? For if thy life aforetime and behind To thee was grateful, and not all thy good Was heaped as in sieve to flow away And perish unavailingly, why not, Even like a banqueter, depart the halls, Laden with life? why not with mind content Take now, thou fool, thy unafflicted rest? But if whatever thou enjoyed hath been Lavished and lost, and life is now offence, Why seekest more to add—which in its turn Will perish foully and fall out in vain? O why not rather make an end of life, Of labour? For all I may devise or find To pleasure thee is nothing: all things are The same forever. Though not yet thy body Wrinkles with years, nor yet the frame exhausts Outworn, still things abide the same, even if Thou goest on to conquer all of time With length of days, yea, if thou never diest"— What were our answer, but that Nature here Urges just suit and in her words lays down True cause of action? Yet should one complain, Riper in years and elder, and lament, Poor devil, his death more sorely than is fit, Then would she not, with greater right, on him Cry out, inveighing with a voice more shrill: "Off with thy tears, and choke thy whines, buffoon! Thou wrinklest—after thou hast had the sum Of the guerdons of life; yet, since thou cravest ever What's not at hand, contemning present good, That life has slipped away, unperfected And unavailing unto thee. And now, Or ere thou guessed it, death beside thy head Stands—and before thou canst be going home Sated and laden with the goodly feast. But now yield all that's alien to thine age,— Up, with good grace! make room for sons: thou must." Justly, I fancy, would she reason thus, Justly inveigh and gird: since ever the old Outcrowded by the new gives way, and ever The one thing from the others is repaired. Nor no man is consigned to the abyss Of Tartarus, the black. For stuff must be, That thus the after-generations grow,— Though these, their life completed, follow thee; And thus like thee are generations all— Already fallen, or some time to fall. So one thing from another rises ever; And in fee-simple life is given to none, But unto all mere usufruct. Look back: Nothing to us was all fore-passed eld Of time the eternal, ere we had a birth. And Nature holds this like a mirror up Of time-to-be when we are dead and gone. And what is there so horrible appears? Now what is there so sad about it all? Is't not serener far than any sleep? And, verily, those tortures said to be In Acheron, the deep, they all are ours Here in this life. No Tantalus, benumbed With baseless terror, as the fables tell, Fears the huge boulder hanging in the air: But, rather, in life an empty dread of Gods Urges mortality, and each one fears Such fall of fortune as may chance to him. Nor eat the vultures into Tityus Prostrate in Acheron, nor can they find, Forsooth, throughout eternal ages, aught To pry around for in that mighty breast. However hugely he extend his bulk— Who hath for outspread limbs not acres nine, But the whole earth—he shall not able be To bear eternal pain nor furnish food From his own frame forever. But for us A Tityus is he whom vultures rend Prostrate in love, whom anxious anguish eats, Whom troubles of any unappeased desires Asunder rip. We have before our eyes Here in this life also a Sisyphus In him who seeketh of the populace The rods, the axes fell, and evermore Retires a beaten and a gloomy man. For to seek after power—an empty name, Nor given at all—and ever in the search To endure a world of toil, O this it is To shove with shoulder up the hill a stone Which yet comes rolling back from off the top, And headlong makes for levels of the plain. Then to be always feeding an ingrate mind, Filling with good things, satisfying never— As do the seasons of the year for us, When they return and bring their progenies And varied charms, and we are never filled With the fruits of life—O this, I fancy, 'tis To pour, like those young virgins in the tale, Waters into a sieve, unfilled forever. Cerberus and Furies, and that Lack of Light Tartarus, out-belching from his mouth the surge Of horrible heat—the which are nowhere, nor Indeed can be: but in this life is fear Of retributions just and expiations For evil acts: the dungeon and the leap From that dread rock of infamy, the stripes, The executioners, the oaken rack, The iron plates, bitumen, and the torch. And even though these are absent, yet the mind, With a fore-fearing conscience, plies its goads And burns beneath the lash, nor sees meanwhile What terminus of ills, what end of pine Can ever be, and feareth lest the same But grow more heavy after death. Of truth, The life of fools is Acheron on earth. This also to thy very self sometimes Repeat thou mayst: "Lo, even good Ancus left The sunshine with his eyes, in divers things A better man than thou, O worthless hind; And many other kings and lords of rule Thereafter have gone under, once who swayed O'er mighty peoples. And he also, he— Who whilom paved a highway down the sea, And gave his legionaries thoroughfare Along the deep, and taught them how to cross The pools of brine afoot, and did contemn, Trampling upon it with his cavalry, The bellowings of ocean—poured his soul From dying body, as his light was ta'en. And Scipio's son, the thunderbolt of war, Horror of Carthage, gave his bones to earth, Like to the lowliest villein in the house. Add finders-out of sciences and arts; Add comrades of the Heliconian dames, Among whom Homer, sceptered o'er them all, Now lies in slumber sunken with the rest. Then, too, Democritus, when ripened eld Admonished him his memory waned away, Of own accord offered his head to death. Even Epicurus went, his light of life Run out, the man in genius who o'er-topped The human race, extinguishing all others, As sun, in ether arisen, all the stars. Wilt thou, then, dally, thou complain to go?— For whom already life's as good as dead, Whilst yet thou livest and lookest?—who in sleep Wastest thy life—time's major part, and snorest Even when awake, and ceasest not to see The stuff of dreams, and bearest a mind beset By baseless terror, nor discoverest oft What's wrong with thee, when, like a sotted wretch, Thou'rt jostled along by many crowding cares, And wanderest reeling round, with mind aswim." If men, in that same way as on the mind They feel the load that wearies with its weight, Could also know the causes whence it comes, And why so great the heap of ill on heart, O not in this sort would they live their life, As now so much we see them, knowing not What 'tis they want, and seeking ever and ever A change of place, as if to drop the burden. The man who sickens of his home goes out, Forth from his splendid halls, and straight—returns, Feeling i'faith no better off abroad. He races, driving his Gallic ponies along, Down to his villa, madly,—as in haste To hurry help to a house afire.—At once He yawns, as soon as foot has touched the threshold, Or drowsily goes off in sleep and seeks Forgetfulness, or maybe bustles about And makes for town again. In such a way Each human flees himself—a self in sooth, As happens, he by no means can escape; And willy-nilly he cleaves to it and loathes, Sick, sick, and guessing not the cause of ail. Yet should he see but that, O chiefly then, Leaving all else, he'd study to divine The nature of things, since here is in debate Eternal time and not the single hour, Mortal's estate in whatsoever remains After great death. And too, when all is said, What evil lust of life is this so great Subdues us to live, so dreadfully distraught In perils and alarms? one fixed end Of life abideth for mortality; Death's not to shun, and we must go to meet. Besides we're busied with the same devices, Ever and ever, and we are at them ever, And there's no new delight that may be forged By living on. But whilst the thing we long for Is lacking, that seems good above all else; Thereafter, when we've touched it, something else We long for; ever one equal thirst of life Grips us agape. And doubtful 'tis what fortune The future times may carry, or what be That chance may bring, or what the issue next Awaiting us. Nor by prolonging life Take we the least away from death's own time, Nor can we pluck one moment off, whereby To minish the aeons of our state of death. Therefore, O man, by living on, fulfil As many generations as thou may: Eternal death shall there be waiting still; And he who died with light of yesterday Shall be no briefer time in death's No-more Than he who perished months or years before.