Reflections on the Brevity of Life

Poet's name unknown: Han Dynasty or earlier (206 b.c.-220 a.d.)

We sought the city by the Eastern gate,
Our chariot moving at a leisured rate,
Along the road on which the sunlight weaves
The trembling of the willow's rustling leaves.
And far away are pine-trees towering high,
Beneath whose shade the graves of heroes lie;
In Hades now their last long sleep they take,
From which a mortal never more shall wake.
How vast the gulf between the quick and dead!
Yet as the morning dew our life is sped;
The rocks and hills enduring strength retain,
But mortals pass in fast and endless train.
Alas! the sages are inert to trace
Beyond the grave the future of our race;
Alchemic nostrums, too, are used in vain,
They cannot turn life's ills to endless gain.
Then let us drain the goblet while we live,
And take the best the fleeting hour can give.
In life a little pleasure may be won,
To-morrow we must die and there'll be none.