Monday, October 03, 2016


The Vanity of Man's Life

"Of the vanitie of mans life," Tottel's Miscellany, ed. Edward Arber (London: Murray, 1870), pp. 257-258 (line numbers added):
Vaine is the fleting welth,
Whereon the world stayes:
Sithe stalking time by priuy stelth
Encrocheth on our dayes.

And elde which creepeth fast,        5
To taynte vs with her wounde:
Will turne eche blysse into a blast,
Which lasteth but a stounde.

Of youth the lusty floure,
Which whylome stoode in price:        10
Shall vanish quite within an houre,
As fire consumes the ice.

Where is become that wight,
For whose sake Troy towne:
Withstode the grekes till ten yeres fight,        15
Had rasde their walls adowne.

Did not the wormes consume,
Her caryon to the dust?
Did dreadfull death forbeare his fume
For beauty, pride, or lust?        20
My notes, at the risk of belaboring the obvious:
3 sithe: since, seeing that
5 elde: "Antiquity, duration of existence; time considered as a destroying or wearing agency" (Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. eld, sense 4)
7 blast: curse
8 stounde: moment
10 whylome: once upon a time
13 wight: person, here = Helen of Troy
19 fume: perhaps "A fit of anger, an irritable or angry mood" (Oxford English Dictionary, sense 7.a)

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