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Wilfrid Scawen Blunt (1840-1922)

The Mockery of Life


              1God! What a mockery is this life of ours!
              2Cast forth in blood and pain from our mother's womb,
              3Most like an excrement, and weeping showers
              4Of senseless tears: unreasoning, naked, dumb,
              5The symbol of all weakness and the sum:
              6Our very life a sufferance. -- Presently,
              7Grown stronger, we must fight for standing-room
              8Upon the earth, and the bare liberty
              9To breathe and move. We crave the right to toil.
            10We push, we strive, we jostle with the rest.
            11We learn new courage, stifle our old fears,
            12Stand with stiff backs, take part in every broil.
            13It may be that we love, that we are blest.
            14It may be, for a little space of years,
            15We conquer fate and half forget our tears.

            16And then fate strikes us. First our joys decay.
            17Youth, with its pleasures, is a tale soon told.
            18We grow a little poorer day by day.
            19Old friendships falter. Loves grow strangely cold.
            20In vain we shift our hearts to a new hold
            21And barter joy for joy, the less for less.
            22We doubt our strength, our wisdom, and our gold.
            23We stand alone, as in a wilderness
            24Of doubts and terrors. Then, if we be wise,
            25We make our terms with fate and, while we may,
            26Sell our life's last sad remnant for a hope.
            27And it is wisdom thus to close our eyes.
            28But for the foolish, those who cannot pray,
            29What else remains of their dark horoscope
            30But a tall tree and courage and a rope?

            31And who shall tell what ignominy death
            32Has yet in store for us; what abject fears
            33Even for the best of us; what fights for breath;
            34What sobs, what supplications, what wild tears;
            35What impotence of soul against despairs
            36Which blot out reason? -- The last trembling thought
            37Of each poor brain, as dissolution nears,
            38Is not of fair life lost, of Heaven bought
            39And glory won. 'Tis not the thought of grief;
            40Of friends deserted; loving hearts which bleed;
            41Wives, sisters, children who around us weep.
            42But only a mad clutching for relief
            43From physical pain, importunate Nature's need;
            44The search as for a womb where we may creep
            45Back from the world, to hide, -- perhaps to sleep.


Online text copyright © 2005, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, "The Love Sonnets of Proteus," "Part III. -- Gods and False Gods," LXXIV-LXXVI, Poems (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1923): 74-75. PR 4149 B8A17
First publication date: 1881
Publication date note: "The Mockery of Life, A Triple Sonnet," The Love Songs of Proteus (London: Kegan Paul, 1881): 79-81. PR 4149 B8L6 1881 Robarts Library
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: 2005
Recent editing: 1:2005/2/17

Form: extended sonnet
Rhyme: ababbcbcdefdeff


Other poems by Wilfrid Scawen Blunt