Read HOW OLD ART THOU? of A Book For The Young, free online book, by Sarah French, on

Count not the days that have idly flown,
The years that were vainly spent;
Nor speak of the hours thou must blush to own,
When thy spirit stands before the throne
To account for the talents lent.

But number the hours redeemed from sin,
The moments employed for heaven;
Oh, few and evil thy days have been,
Thy life, a toilsome but worthless scene,
For a nobler purpose given.

Will the shade go back on thy dial plate?
Will thy sun stand still on his way?
Both hasten on, and thy spirit’s fate
Rests on the point of life’s little date,
Then live while ’tis called to-day.

Life’s waning hours, like the Sybil’s page,
As they lessen, in value rise;
Oh, then rouse thee, and live nor deem that man’s age
Stands in the length of his Pilgrimage,
But in days that are truly wise.

Who needs a teacher to admonish him
That flesh is grass! that earthly things, but mist!
What are our joys, but dreams? And what our hopes?
But goodly shadows in the summer cloud?
There’s not a wind that blows, but bears with it
Some rainbow promise. Not a moment flies,
But puts its sickle in the fields of life,
And mows its thousands, with their joys and cares.

’Tis but as yesterday, since on those stars,
Which now I view, the Chaldean shepherd gazed,
In his mid watch observant, and disposed
The twinkling hosts, as fancy gave them shape;
Yet, in the interim, what mighty shocks
Have buffeted mankind; whole nations razed,
Cities made desolate; the polished sunk
To barbarism, and once barbaric states,
Swaying the wand of science and of arts.
Illustrious deeds and memorable names,
Blotted from record, and upon the tongues
Of gray tradition, voluble no more.

Where are the heroes of the ages past,
Where the brave chieftans; where the mighty ones
Who flourished in the infancy of days?
Ah to the grave gone down! On their fallen fame
Exultant, mocking, at the pride of man,
Sits grim Forgetfulness. The warrior’s arm
Lies nerveless on the pillow of its shame,
Hushed is the stormy voice, and quenched the blaze
Of his red eye-ball.

Yesterday, his name

Was mighty on the earth; to-day, ’tis what?
The meteor of the night of distant years,
That flashed unnoticed, save by wrinkled eld,
Musing, at midnight, upon prophecies,
Who at her only lattice, saw the gleam
Point to the mist-poised shroud, then quietly
Closed her pale lips, and locked the secret up,
Safe in the charnel’s treasure.

Oh! how weak

Is mortal man! how, trifling! how confined
His scope of vision! Puffed with confidence
His phrase grows big with immortality;
And he, poor insect of a summer’s day,
Dreams of eternal honours to his name,
Of endless glory and perennial bays,
He idly reasons of eternity.
As of the train of ages; when, alas!
Ten thousand thousand of his centuries
Are in comparison, a little point,
Too trivial for account.

Oh it is strange;
’Tis very strange to mark men’s fallacies.
Behold him proudly view some pompous pile,
Whose high dome swells to emulate the skies,
And smile, and say, my name shall live with this,
Till time shall be no more; while at his feet,
Yea, at his very feet, the crumbling dust
Of the fallen fabric of the other day,
Preaches the solemn lesson. He should know
That time must conquer; that the loudest blast
That ever filled renown’s obstreperous trump,
Fades in the lap of ages, and expires.
Who lies, inhumed, in the terrific gloom
Of the gigantic pyramid? Or who
Reared its huge wall? Oblivion laughs, and says,
The prey is mine. They sleep, and never more
Their names shall strike upon the ear of man,
Or memory burst its fetters.

Where is Rome?
She lives but in the tale of other times;
Her proud pavilions, are the hermits’ home,
And her long colonades, her public walks,
Now faintly echo to the pilgrims’ feet,
Who comes to muse in solitude, and trace
Through the rank moss revealed, her honoured dust.

But not to Rome, alone, has fate confined
The doom of ruin; cities numberless.
Tyre, Sidon, Carthage, Babylon, and Troy,
And rich Phoenicia; they are blotted out
Half razed, from memory razed; and their very name
And being, in dispute.