Death never takes by surprise
The well-prepared, to wit, the wise—
They knowing of themselves the time
To meditate the final change of clime.
That time, alas! embraces all
Which into hours and minutes we divide;
There is no part, however small,
That from this tribute one can hide.
The very moment, often, which bids
The heirs of empire see the light
Is that which shuts their fringed lids
In everlasting night.
Defend yourself by rank and wealth,
Plead beauty, virtue, youth, and health,—
Unblushing Death will ravish all;
The world itself shall pass beneath his pall.
No truth is better known; but, truth to say,
No truth is oftener thrown away.
A man, well in his second century,
Complained that Death had called him suddenly;
Had left no time his plans to fill,
To balance books, or make his will.
“O Death,” said he, “d” you call it fair,
Without a warning to prepare,
To take a man on lifted leg?
O, wait a little while, I beg.
My wife cannot be left alone;
I must set out my nephew’s son,
And let me build my house a wing,
Before you strike, O cruel king!”
“Old man,” said Death, “one thing is sure,—
My visit here’s not premature.
Have you not lived a century!
Darest you engage to find for me?
In Paris’ walls two older men
Has France, among her millions ten?
You say’st I should have sent you word
Your lamp to trim, your loins to gird,
And then my coming had been meet—
Your will engrossed,
Your house complete!
Did not your feelings notify?
Did not they tell you you must die?
Your taste and hearing are no more;
Your sight itself is gone before;
For you the sun superfluous shines,
And all the wealth of Indian mines;
Your mates I have shown you dead or dying.
What’s this, indeed, but notifying?
Come on, old man, without reply;
For to the great and common weal
It does but little signify
Whether your will shall ever feel
The impress of your hand and seal.”
And Death had reason,—ghastly sage!
For surely man, at such an age,
Should part from life as from a feast,
Returning decent thanks, at least,
To Him who spread the various cheer,
And unrepining take his bier;
For shun it long no creature can.
Repinest you, grey-headed man?
Do you seenger mortals rushing by
To meet their death without a sigh—
Death full of triumph and of fame,
But in its terrors still the same.—
But, ah! my words are thrown away!
Those most like Death most dread his sway.
Death and the Dying by Jean de La Fontaine’s Fables in Book 8