Adam Lindsay Gordon

(19 October 1833 – 24 June 1870 / Azores)

Ars Longa


[A Song of Pilgrimage]

Our hopes are wild imaginings,
Our schemes are airy castles,
Yet these, on earth, are lords and kings,
And we their slaves and vassals ;
Yon dream, forsooth, of buoyant youth,
Most ready to deceive is,
But age will own the bitter truth,
'Ars longa, vita brevis.'

The hill of life with eager feet
We climbed in merry morning,
But on the downward track we meet
The shades of twilight warning ;
The shadows gaunt they fall aslant ;
And those who scaled Ben Nevis,
Against the mole-hills toil and pant,
'Ars longa, vita brevis.'

The obstacles that barr'd our path
We seldom quail'd to dash on
In youth , for youth one motto hath,
'The will, the way must fashion.'
Those words, I wot, blood thick and hot,
Too ready to believe is,
But thin and cold our blood hath got,
'Ars longa, vita brevis.'

And 'art is long', and 'life is short',
And man is slow at learning ;
And yet by divers dealings taught,
For divers follies yearning,
He owns at last, with grief downcast
(For man disposed to grieve is)—
One adage old stands true and fast,
'Ars longa, vita brevis.'

We journey, manhood, youth, and age,
The matron, and the maiden,
Like pilgrims on a pilgrimage,
Loins girded, heavy laden :—
Each pilgrim strong, who joins our throng,
Most eager to achieve is,
Foredoom'd ere long to swell the song,
'Ars longa, vita brevis.'

At morn, with staff and sandal-shoon,
We travel brisk and cheery,
But some have laid them down ere noon,
And all at eve are weary ;
The noontide glows with no repose,
And bitter chill the eve is,
The grasshopper a burden grows,
'Ars longa, vita brevis.'

The staff is snapp'd, the sandal fray'd,
The flint-stone galls and blisters,
Our brother's steps we cannot aid,
Ah me ! nor aid our sister's :
The pit prepares its hidden snares,
The rock prepared to cleave is,
We cry, in falling unawares,
'Ars longa, vita brevis.'

Oh ! Wisdom, which we sought to win !
Oh ! Strength in which we trusted !
Oh ! Glory, which we gloried in !
Oh ! puppets we adjusted !
On barren land our seed is sand,
And torn the web we weave is,
The bruised reed hath pierced the hand,
'Ars longa, vita brevis.'

We, too, 'Job's comforters' have met,
With steps, like ours, unsteady,
They could not help themselves, and yet
To judge us they were ready ;
Life's path is trod at last, and God
More ready to reprieve is,
They know,who rest beneath the sod,
'Mors grata, vita brevis.'

Submitted: Friday, February 26, 2010

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