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All is Vanity.

I.
1 HOW vain is Life! which rightly we compare
2 To flying Posts, that haste away;
3 To Plants, that fade with the declining Day;
4 To Clouds, that sail amidst the yielding Air;
5 Till by Extention into that they flow,
6 Or, scatt'ring on the World below,
7 Are lost and gone, ere we can say they were;
8 To Autumn-Leaves, which every Wind can chace;
9 To rising Bubbles, on the Waters Face;
10 To fleeting Dreams, that will not stay,
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11 Nor in th' abused Fancy dance,
12 When the returning Rays of Light,
13 Resuming their alternate Right,
14 Break on th' ill-order'd Scene on the fantastick Trance:
15 As weak is Man, whilst Tenant to the Earth;
16 As frail and as uncertain all his Ways,
17 From the first moment of his weeping Birth,
18 Down to the last and best of his few restless Days;
19 When to the Land of Darkness he retires
20 From disappointed Hopes, and frustrated Desires;
21 Reaping no other Fruit of all his Pain
22 Bestow'd whilst in the vale of Tears below,
23 But this unhappy Truth, at last to know,
24 That Vanity's our Lot, and all Mankind is Vain.
II.
25 If past the hazard of his tendrest Years,
26 Neither in thoughtless Sleep opprest,
27 Nor poison'd with a tainted Breast,
28 Loos'd from the infant Bands and female Cares,
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29 A studious Boy, advanc'd beyond his Age,
30 Wastes the dim Lamp, and turns the restless Page;
31 For some lov'd Book prevents the rising Day,
32 And on it, stoln aside, bestows the Hours of Play;
33 Him the observing Master do's design
34 For search of darkned Truths, and Mysteries Divine;
35 Bids him with unremitted Labour trace
36 The Rise of Empires, and their various Fates,
37 The several Tyrants o'er the several States,
38 To Babel's lofty Towers, and warlike Nimrod's Race;
39 Bids him in Paradice the Bank survey,
40 Where Man, new-moulded from the temper'd Clay,
41 (Till fir'd with Breath Divine) a helpless Figure lay:
42 Could he be led thus far What were the Boast,
43 What the Reward of all the Toil it cost,
44 What from that Land of ever-blooming Spring,
45 For our Instruction could he bring,
46 Unless, that having Humane Nature found
47 Unseparated from its Parent Ground,
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48 (Howe'er we vaunt our Elevated Birth)
49 The Epicure in soft Array,
50 The lothsome Beggar, that before
51 His rude unhospitable Door,
52 Unpity'd but by Brutes, a broken Carcass lay,
53 Were both alike deriv'd from the same common Earth?
54 But ere the Child can to these Heights attain,
55 Ere he can in the Learned Sphere arise;
56 A guiding Star, attracting to the Skies,
57 A Fever, seizing the o'er-labour'd Brain,
58 Sends him, perhaps, to Death's concealing Shade;
59 Where, in the Marble Tomb now silent laid,
60 He better do's that useful Doctrine show,
61 (Which all the sad Assistants ought to know,
62 Who round the Grave his short continuance mourn)
63 That first from Dust we came, and must to Dust return.
III.
64 A bolder Youth, grown capable of Arms,
65 Bellona courts with her prevailing Charms;
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66 Bids th' inchanting Trumpet sound,
67 Loud as Triumph, soft as Love,
68 Striking now the Poles above,
69 'Then descending from the Skies,
70 Soften every falling Note;
71 As the harmonious Lark that sings and flies,
72 When near the Earth, contracts her narrow Throat,
73 And warbles on the Ground:
74 Shews the proud Steed, impatient of the Check,
75 'Gainst the loudest Terrors Proof,
76 Pawing the Valley with his steeled Hoof,
77 With Lightning arm'd his Eyes, with Thunder cloth'd his Neck;
78 Who on th' advanced Foe, (the Signal giv'n)
79 Flies, like a rushing Storm by mighty Whirlwinds driv'n;
80 Lays open the Records of Fame,
81 No glorious Deed omits, no Man of mighty Name;
82 Their Stratagems, their Tempers she'll repeat,
83 From Alexander's, (truly stil'd the GREAT)
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84 From Caesar's on the World's Imperial Seat,
85 To Turenne's Conduct, and to Conde's Heat.
86 'Tis done! and now th' ambitious Youth disdains
87 The safe, but harder Labours of the Gown,
88 The softer Pleasures of the Courtly Town,
89 The once lov'd rural Sports, and Chaces on the Plains;
90 Does with the Soldier's Life the Garb assume,
91 The gold Embroid'ries, and the graceful Plume;
92 Walks haughty in a Coat of Scarlet Die,
93 A Colour well contriv'd to cheat the Eye,
94 Where richer Blood, alas! may undistinguisht lye.
95 And oh! too near that wretched Fate attends;
96 Hear it ye Parents, all ye weeping Friends!
97 Thou fonder Maid! won by those gaudy Charms,
98 (The destin'd Prize of his Victorious Arms)
99 Now sainting Dye upon the mournful Sound,
100 That speaks his hasty Death, and paints the fatal Wound!
101 Trail all your Pikes, dispirit every Drum,
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102 March in a slow Procession from afar,
103 Ye silent, ye dejected Men of War!
104 Be still the Hautboys, and the Flute be dumb!
105 Display no more, in vain, the lofty Banner;
106 For see! where on the Bier before ye lies
107 The pale, the fall'n, th' untimely Sacrifice
108 To your mistaken Shrine, to your false Idol Honour!
IV.
109 As Vain is Beauty, and as short her Power;
110 Tho' in its proud, and transitory Sway,
111 The coldest Hearts and wisest Heads obey
112 That gay fantastick Tyrant of an Hour.
113 On Beauty's Charms, (altho' a Father's Right,
114 Tho' grave Seleucus! to thy Royal Side
115 By holy Vows fair Stratonice be ty'd)
116 With anxious Joy, with dangerous Delight,
117 Too often gazes thy unwary Son,
118 Till past all Hopes, expiring and undone,
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119 A speaking Pulse the secret Cause impart;
120 The only time, when the Physician's Art
121 Could ease that lab'ring Grief, or heal a Lover's Smart.
122 See Great Antonius now impatient stand,
123 Expecting, with mistaken Pride,
124 On Cydnus crowded Shore, on Cydnus fatal Strand,
125 A
Cleopatra's coming down the Cydnus, exactly agreeing with the Description of it in Plutarch.
Queen, at his Tribunal to be try'd,
126 A Queen that arm'd in Beauty, shall deride
127 His feeble Rage, and his whole Fate command:
128 O'er the still Waves her burnisht Galley moves,
129 Row'd by the Graces, whilst officious Loves
130 To silken Cords their busie Hands apply,
131 Or gathering all the gentle Gales that fly,
132 To their fair Mistress with those Spoils repair,
133 And from their purple Wings disperse the balmy Air.
134 Hov'ring Perfumes ascend in od'rous Clouds,
135 Curl o'er the Barque, and play among the Shrouds;
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136 Whilst gently dashing every Silver Oar,
137 Guided by the Rules of Art,
138 With tuneful Instruments design'd
139 To soften, and subdue the stubborn Mind,
140 A strangely pleasing and harmonious Part
141 In equal Measures bore.
142 Like a new Venus on her native Sea,
143 In midst of the transporting Scene,
144 (Which Pen or Pencil imitates in vain)
145 On a resplendent and conspicuous Bed,
146 With all the Pride of Persia loosely spread,
147 The lovely Syrene lay.
148 Which but discern'd from the yet distant Shore,
149 Th' amazed Emperor could hate no more;
150 No more a baffled Vengeance could pursue;
151 But yielding still, still as she nearer drew,
152 When Cleopatra anchor'd in the Bay,
153 Where every Charm cou'd all its Force display,
154 Like his own Statue stood, and gaz'd the World away.
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155 Where ends alas! this Pageantry and State;
156 Where end the Triumphs of this conqu'ring Face,
157 Envy'd of Roman Wives, and all the Female Race?
158 Oh swift Vicissitude of Beauty's Fate!
159 Now in her Tomb withdrawn from publick Sight,
160 From near Captivity and Shame,
161 The vanquish'd, the abandon'd Dame
162 Proffers the Arm, that held another's Right,
163 To the destructive Snake's more just Embrace,
164 And courts deforming Death, to mend his Leaden Pace.
V.
165 But Wit shall last (the vaunting Poet cries)
166 Th' immortal Streams that from Parnassus flow,
167 Shall make his never-fading Lawrels grow,
168 Above this mouldring Earth to flourish in the Skies:
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169 "And
The two Lines with these Marks "before them, are thus Translated by Ben. Johnson from Ovid.
when his Body falls in Funeral Fire,
170 When late revolving Ages shall consume
171 The very Pillars, that support his Tomb,
172 "His Name shall live, and his best Part aspire.
173 Deluded Wretch! grasping at future Praise,
174 Now planting, with mistaken Care,
175 Round thy enchanted Palace in the Air,
176 A Grove, which in thy Fancy time shall raise,
177 A Grove of soaring Palms, and everlasting Bays;
178 Could'st Thou alas! to such Renown arrive,
179 As thy Imaginations wou'd contrive;
180 Should numerous Cities, in a vain contest,
181 Struggle for thy famous Birth;
182 Should the sole Monarch of the conquer'd Earth,
183 His wreathed Head upon thy Volume rest;
184 Like Maro, could'st thou justly claim,
185 Amongst th' inspired tuneful Race,
186 The highest Room, the undisputed Place;
187 And after near Two Thousand Years of Fame,
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188 Have thy proud Work to a new People shown;
189 Th' unequal'd Poems made their own,
190 In such a Dress, in such a perfect Stile
191 As on his Labours Dryden now bestows,
192 As now from Dryden's just Improvement flows,
193 In every polish'd Verse throughout the British Isle;
194 What Benefit alas! would to thee grow?
195 What Sense of Pleasure wou'dst thou know?
196 What swelling Joy? what Pride? what Glory have,
197 When in the Darkness of the abject Grave,
198 Insensible, and Stupid laid below,
199 No Atom of thy Heap, no Dust wou'd move,
200 For all the airy Breath that form'd thy Praise above?
VI.
201 True, says the Man to Luxury inclin'd;
202 Without the Study of uncertain Art,
203 Without much Labour of the Mind,
204 Meer uninstructed Nature will impart,
205 That Life too swiftly flies, and leaves all good behind.
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206 Sieze then, my Friends, (he cries) the present Hour;
207 The Pleasure which to that belongs,
208 The Feasts, th' o'erflowing Bowls, the Mirth, the Songs,
209 The Orange-Bloom, that with such Sweetness blows,
210 Anacreon's celebrated Rose,
211 The Hyacinth, with every beauteous Flower,
212 Which just this happy Moment shall disclose,
213 Are out of Fortune's reach, and all within our Power.
214 Such costly
* In the Life of Demetrius in Plutarch, there is a Description of a Garment order'd to be made for him; wherein was express'd, in precious Stones, and other costly Materials, the Elements as here describ'd.
Garments let our Slaves prepare,
215 As for the gay Demetrius were design'd;
216 Where a new Sun of radiant Diamonds shin'd,
217 Where the enamel'd Earth, and scarce-discerned Air,
218 With a transparent Sea were seen,
219 A Sea composed of the Em'rald's Green,
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220 And with a golden Shore encompass'd round;
221 Where every Orient Shell, of wondrous shape was found.
222 The whole Creation on his Shoulders hung,
223 The whole Creation with his Wish comply'd,
224 Did swiftly, for each Appetite provide,
225 And fed them all when Young.
226 No less, th'
* Sardanapalus.
Assyrian Prince enjoy'd,
227 Of Bliss too soon depriv'd, but never cloy'd.
228 Whose Counsel let us still pursue,
229 Whose Monument, did this Inscription shew
230 To every Passenger, that trod the way,
231 Where, with a slighting
In Sardanapalus's Statue upon his Monument (as described by several Authors, and upon Medals) his right Hand is held up, with his Fingers in a Posture as giving a Filip to the World.
Hand, and scornful Smile
232 The proud Effigies, on th' instructive Pile,
233 A great Example lay.
234 I, here Entomb'd, did mighty Kingdoms sway,
235 Two Cities rais'd
Anchialus and Tarsus.
in one prodigious Day:
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236 Thou wand'ring Traveller, no longer gaze,
237 No longer dwell upon this useless Place;
238 Go Feed, and Drink, in Sports consume thy Life;
239 For All that else we gain's not worth a Moment's Strife.
240 Thus! talks the Fool, whom no Restraint can bound,
241 When now the Glass has gone a frequent round;
242 When soaring Fancy lightly swims,
243 Fancy, that keeps above, and dances o'er the Brims;
244 Whilst weighty Reason sinks, and in the bottom's drown'd:
245 Adds to his Own, an artificial Fire,
246 Doubling ev'ry hot Desire,
247 Till th' auxiliary Spirits, in a Flame,
248 The Stomach's Magazine defy,
249 That standing Pool, that helpless Moisture nigh
250 Thro' every Vital part impetuous fly,
251 And quite consume the Frame;
252 When to the Under world despis'd he goes,
253 A pamper'd Carcase on the Worms bestows,
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254 Who rioting on the unusual Chear,
255 As good a Life enjoy, as he could boast of here.
VII.
256 But hold my Muse! thy farther Flight restrain,
257 Exhaust not thy declining Force,
258 Nor in a long, pursu'd, and breathless Course,
259 Attempt, with slacken'd speed, to run
260 Through ev'ry Vanity beneath the Sun,
261 Lest thy o'erweary'd Reader, should complain,
262 That of all Vanities beside,
263 Which thine, or his Experience e'er have try'd,
264 Thou art, too tedious Muse, most frivolous and vain:
265 Yet, tell the Man, of an aspiring Thought,
266 Of an ambitious, restless Mind,
267 That can no Ease, no Satisfaction find,
268 Till neighb'ring States are to Subjection brought,
269 Till Universal Awe, enslav'd Mankind is taught;
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270 That, should he lead an Army to the Field,
271 For whose still necessary Use,
272 Th' extended Earth cou'd not enough produce,
273 Nor Rivers to their Thirst a full Contentment yield;
274 Yet, must their dark Reverse of Fate
275 Roll round, within that Course of Years,
276 Within the short, the swift, and fleeting Date
277 Prescrib'd by Xerxes,
* Xerxes reviewing his most numerous Army, wept upon the Reflection that within 100 Years not One of them would be left Alive.
when his falling Tears
278 Bewail'd those Numbers, which his Sword employ'd,
279 And false, Hyena-like, lamented and destroy'd.
280 Tell Him, that does some stately Building raise,
281 A Windsor, or Versailles erect,
282 And thorough all Posterity expect,
283 With its unshaken Base, a firm unshaken Praise;
284 Tell Him, Judea's Temple is no more,
285 Upon whose Splendour, Thousands heretofore
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286 Spent the astonish'd Hours, forgetful to Adore:
287 Tell him, into the Earth agen is hurl'd,
288 That most stupendious Wonder of the World,
289 Justly presiding o'er the boasted Seven,
290 By humane Art and Industry design'd,
291 This! the rich Draught of the Immortal Mind,
292 The Architect of Heaven.
293 Remember then, to fix thy Aim on High,
294 Project, and build on t'other side the Sky,
295 For, after all thy vain Expence below,
296 Thou canst no Fame, no lasting Pleasure know;
297 No Good, that shall not thy Embraces fly,
298 Or thou from that be in a Moment caught,
299 Thy Spirit to new Claims, new Int'rests brought,
300 Whilst unconcern'd thy secret Ashes lye,
301 Or stray about the Globe, O Man ordain'd to Dye!

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About this text

Title (in Source Edition): All is Vanity.
Themes: vanity of life
Genres: ode

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Source edition

Miscellany poems, on several occasions: Written by the Right Honble Anne, Countess of Winchilsea. London: printed for J. B. and sold by Benj. Tooke, William Taylor, and James Round, 1713, pp. 4-21. [8],390p. ; 8⁰. (ESTC T94539; Foxon pp. 274-5; OTA K076314.000)

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The text has been typographically modernized, but without any silent modernization of spelling, capitalization, or punctuation. The source of the text is given and all editorial interventions have been recorded in textual notes. Based on the electronic text originally produced by the ECCO-TCP project, this ECPA text has been edited to conform to the recommendations found in Level 5 of the Best Practices for TEI in Libraries version 3.0.

Other works by Anne Finch (née Kingsmill), countess of Winchilsea