A Poetry Mosaic: What is Life According to Several Poets

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The following is a curious poem formed by putting together lines written by 38 American and English poets. This remarkable feat was credited to a Mrs. H. A. Deming. According to A. H. Bates in Notes and Queries (September 13, 1873), Deming spent a year of reading when compiling the poem and first published it in the San Francisco Times:

“Life,” what all the Talents sung about it.

Why all this toil for triumphs of an hour? [Young]
Life’s a short summer — man is but a flower. [Dr. Johnson]
By turns we catch the fatal breath and die; [Pope]
The cradle and the tomb, alas! how nigh. [Prior]
To be better far than not to be, [Sewell]
Though all man’s life may seem a tragedy; [Spencer]
But light cares speak when mighty griefs are dumb — [Daniel]
The bottom is but shallow whence they come. [Raleigh]
Thy fate is the common fate of all; [Longfellow]
Unmingled joys here no man befall; [Southwell]
Nature to each allots his proper sphere, [Congreve]
Fortune makes folly her peculiar care. [Churchill]
Custom does often reason overrule, [Rochester]
And throw a cruel sunshine on a fool. [Armstrong]
Live well; how long or short permit to Heaven. [Milton]
They who forgive most shall be most forgiven. [Bailey]
Sin may be clasped so close we cannot see its face — [French]
Vile intercourse where virtue has no place; [Somerville]
Then keep each passion down, however dear, [Thompson]
Thou pendulum betwixt a smile and tear. [Byron]
Her sensual snares let faithless pleasure lay, [Smollett]
With craft and skill to ruin and betray; [Crabbe]
Soar not too high to fall, but stoop to rise; [Massinger]
We masters grow of all that we despise. [Crowley]
Oh, then, renounce that impious self-esteem. [Beattie]
Riches have wings and grandeur is a dream. [Cowper]
Think not ambition wise because ’tis brave, [Davenant]
The paths of glory lead but to the grave; [Gray]
What is ambition? ‘Tis a glorious cheat, [Wills]
Only destructive to the brave and great. [Addison]
What’s all the gaudy glitter of a crown? [Dryden]
The way to bliss lies not on beds of down. [Quarles]
How long we live, not years, but actions tell; [Watkins]
That man lives twice who lives the first life well. [Herrick]
Make, then, while yet ye may, your God your friend, [Mason]
Whom Christians worship, yet not comprehend. [Hill]
The trust that’s given guard, and to yourself be just, [Dana]
For live we how we may, yet die we must. [Shakespeare]

 

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My name Edmark M. Law. I work as a freelance writer, mainly writing about science and mathematics. I am an ardent hobbyist. I like to read, solve puzzles, play chess, make origami and play basketball. In addition, I dabble in magic, particularly card magic and other sleight-of-hand type magic. I live in Hong Kong. You can find me on Twitter` and Facebook. My email is edmarklaw@learnfunfacts.com

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