Wednesday, September 07, 2011


Is Life Worth Living?

The Day-Book of John Stuart Blackie (London: Grant Richards, 1902), pp. 120-123:
Is life worth living? This means, I suppose,
You don't quite like the smell that meets your nose:
Well, I agree, a leek is not a rose,
But with all that, I mean to keep my NOSE.

Is life worth living? Well, to tell you true,
It scarcely is—if all men were like you!

Is life worth living? Ask the bird that wings
Its breezy way, and upward soars and sings.

Is life worth living? Well, I would not fetter
A free man's choice; try if death suits you better.

Is life worth living? To propose the question
Gives proof of huge conceit or bad digestion.

Is life worth living? You don't like your dinner!
What then? This proves that you're a sickly sinner.

Is life worth living? Well, the truth to tell,
I'm pleased with Earth—where would you choose to dwell ?

Is life worth living? Well, in any place—
Earth, hell, or heaven—sour blood will make wry face.

Is life worth living? Well—one thing is clear,
If you go hence, no man will miss you here.

Is life worth living? Ask the flowers that spread
Their summer glory o'er the blushing bed.
They court the sun; and you debate if light
Were not much better swallowed up in night.
The mouth from which such senseless babblings come
Should do the world a pleasure and be—dumb!

Is life worth living? Ask the blackcocks and the hens,
That pick hard berries in wild Highland glens;
They die sometimes by rot, sometimes by shot,
But all agree that they would rather not.
Learn, reasoning man, from the unreasoning bird,
And when you could be wise, don't be absurd.

Is life worth living? Pity 'tis that ever
Wit should forge nonsense, itching to be clever!
Go, work like other men, and find your joy
In fruitful toil, and don't write books, my boy.

Is life worth living? Ask the question when
Death's scythe is near, you'll get true answer then.

Is life worth living? This depends on you!
Be true, and worth will live in all you do;
Be false, and honest Nature will uprise,
And blow your worthless work, like chaff, before your eyes.

Is life worth living? Is the sun worth shining?
The sea worth flowing, or the grass worth growing?
The clouds worth raining, or your wit worth straining?
If to this way your wise men are inclining,
I'll be a fool with some few grains of sense remaining.

Is life worth living? When all Nature cries
Amen to you, I'll shut both ears and eyes,
And creep for comfort where the dead man lies!

Is life worth living? Yours or mine? Inanity
May suit your taste! My watchword is Humanity.
I'm proud to be a man, the top of Nature,
And, as a man with men, to grow to kingly stature.

When fears increase and apprehensions grow,
Life is not worth the living. Let us go!
Cf. George Borrow, Lavengro (1851), Chapter XXV:
'Life is sweet, brother.'
'Do you think so?'
'Think so!—There's night and day, brother, both sweet things; sun, moon, and stars, brother, all sweet things; there's likewise a wind on the heath. Life is very sweet, brother; who would wish to die?'

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