"HYMN X. " by Anna Lætitia Barbauld (1743 - 1825)
First Publication: Hymns in Prose for Children. by Anna Lætitia Barbauld. London: J. Johnson, 1781. pp. 77-82.
CHILD of mortality, whence comest thou? why is thy countenance sad, and why are thine eyes red with weeping?
I have seen the rose in its beauty; it spread its leaves to the morning sun–I returned, it was dying upon its [Page 78] stalk; the grace of the form of it was gone; its loveliness was vanished away; the leaves thereof were scattered on the ground, and no one gathered them again.
A stately tree grew on the plain; its branches were covered with verdure; its boughs spread wide and made a goodly shadow; the trunk was like a strong pillar; the [Page 79] roots were like crooked fangs.–I returned, the verdure was nipt by the east wind; the branches were lopt away by the ax; the worm had made its way into the trunk, and the heart thereof was decayed; it mouldered away, and fell to the ground.
I have seen the insects sporting in the sun-shine, and darting along the stream; [Page 80] their wings glittered with gold and purple; their bodies shone like the green emerald: they were more numerous than I could count; their motions were quicker than my eye could glance–I returned, they were brushed into the pool; they were perishing with the evening breeze; the swallow had devoured them; the pike had [Page 81] seized them: there were none found of so great a multitude.
I have seen man in the pride of his strength; his cheeks glowed with beauty; his limbs were full of activity; he leaped; he walked; he ran; he rejoiced in that he was more excellent than those–I returned, he lay stiff and cold on the bare ground; his feet could no longer move, [Page 82] nor his hands stretch themselves out; his life was departed from him; and the breath out of his nostrils:–therefore do I weep, because DEATH is in the world; the spoiler is among the works of God: all that is made, must be destroyed; all that is born, must die.