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Cento on Life
by
Mrs. H. A. Deming



The following poem is a compilation of lines selected by Mrs. H. A. Deming, from thirty-eight authors. It is said to have taken her one year of research to find and fit all the pieces to create this cento about life. It was originally published in The San Francisco Times, c. 1868:—


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





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Original post date 2016 Feb 27
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