Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. VI. Fancy: Sentiment
Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume VI. Fancy.  1904.
Poems of Sentiment: I. Time
Time the Supreme
Edward Young (1681–1765)
From “Night Thoughts,” Night I.

  THE BELL strikes one: we take no note of time,
But from its loss. To give it, then, a tongue,
Is wise in man. As if an angel spoke,
I feel the solemn sound. If heard aright,
It is the knell of my departed hours:        5
Where are they? With the years beyond the flood.
It is the signal that demands despatch;
How much is to be done! my hopes and fears
Start up alarmed, and o’er life’s narrow verge
Look down—on what? a fathomless abyss;        10
A dread eternity; how surely mine!
And can eternity belong to me,
Poor pensioner on the bounties of an hour?
*        *        *        *        *
Time the supreme!—Time is eternity;
Pregnant with all eternity can give;        15
Pregnant with all that makes archangels smile.
Who murders time, he crushes in the birth
A power ethereal, only not adored.
  Ah! how unjust to Nature and himself,
Is thoughtless, thankless, inconsistent man!        20
Like children babbling nonsense in their sports,
We censure Nature for a span too short;
That span too short, we tax as tedious too;
Torture invention, all expedients tire,
To lash the lingering moments into speed,        25
And whirl us (happy riddance!) from ourselves.
Art, brainless Art! our furious charioteer
(For Nature’s voice, unstifled, would recall),
Drives headlong towards the precipice of death!
Death, most our dread; death, thus more dreadful made:        30
O, what a riddle of absurdity!
Leisure is pain; takes off our chariot wheels:
How heavily we drag the load of life!
Blest leisure is our curse: like that of Cain,
It makes us wander; wander earth around        35
To fly that tyrant, Thought. As Atlas groaned
The world beneath, we groan beneath an hour.
We cry for mercy to the next amusement:
The next amusement mortgages our fields;
Slight inconvenience! prisons hardly frown,        40
From hateful Time if prisons set us free.
Yet when Death kindly tenders us relief,
We call him cruel; years to moments shrink,
Ages to years. The telescope is turned.
To man’s false optics (from his folly false)        45
Time, in advance, behind him hides his wings,
And seems to creep, decrepit with his age;
Behold him when past by: what then is seen
But his broad pinions, swifter than the winds?
And all mankind, in contradiction strong,        50
Rueful, aghast, cry out on his career.

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