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How soon doth man decay!

When clothes are taken from a chest of sweets

To swaddle infants, whose young breath

Scarce knows the way,

Those clouts are little winding-sheets,

Which do consign and send them unto Death.

When boys go first to bed,

They step into their voluntary graves;

Sleep binds them fast, only their breath

Makes them not dead;

Successive nights, like rolling waves,

Convey them quickly who are bound for Death.


When Youth is frank and free,

And calls for music, while his veins do swell,

All day exchanging mirth and breath

In company,

That music summons to the knell

Which shall befriend him at the house of Death.

When man grows staid and wise,

Getting a house and home, where he may move

Within the circle of his breath,

Schooling his eyes;

That dumb enclosure maketh love

Unto the coffin that attends his death.

When Age grows low and weak,

Marking his grave, and thawing every year,

Till all do melt, and drown his breath

When he would speak,

A chair or litter shows6060shows, prefigures the bier

Which shall convey him to the house of Death.

Man, ere he is aware,

Hath put together a solemnity,

And drest his hearse, while he has breath

As yet to spare;

Yet, LORD, instruct us so to die

That all these dyings may be LIFE in DEATH.

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