Memento Mori Perhaps the swiftest


Memento Mori

Perhaps the swiftest and surest remedy to any set of problems is to set them into proper perspective. All the turmoils, hubbubs and ados of everyday life become relagated to the back seat when you consider that ultimately each of us is going to die and render an accounting for the time we spent on Earth. Some sooner, some later, but the same fate awaits all and there is no missing out. Then we need to ask ourselves, what do our deeds look like in the echoes of eternity. The vast majority of us, in our day to day actions, will see that most things produce minor ripples and damp out. But important things, like how one loves and raises a child, how one loves ones spouse and friends, how one love ones neighbors--these things produce more than a ripple. Often, for good or ill they produce tsunamis. Some of these tsunamis carry others onward to glory, others rip and slash our homeland, leaving it weakened.

So to open the morning , a reflection by a saint on this subject. If the biography in the Catholic Encyclopedia is correct St. Robert Southwell (I believe he has been canonized) was relatively fortunate among the English Martyrs because he was merely hanged at Tyburn Tree in 1595. Fr. Southwell was a Jesuit, and quite a fine poet.

from Moeonię, 1595         Upon the Image of Death St. Robert Southwell

Before my face the picture hangs
    That daily should put me in mind
Of those cold names and bitter pangs
    That shortly I am like to find ;
But yet, alas, full little I
    Do think hereon that I must die.

I often look upon a face
    Most ugly, grisly, bare, and thin ;
I often view the hollow place
    Where eyes and nose had sometimes been ;
I see the bones across that lie,
    Yet little think that I must die.

I read the label underneath,
    That telleth me whereto I must ;
I see the sentence eke that saith
    Remember, man, that thou art dust!
But yet, alas, but seldom I
    Do think indeed that I must die.

Continually at my bed's head
    A hearse doth hang, which doth me tell
That I ere morning may be dead,
    Though now I feel myself full well ;
But yet, alas, for all this, I
    Have little mind that I must die.

The gown which I do use to wear,
    The knife wherewith I cut my meat,
And eke that old and ancient chair
    Which is my only usual seat,—
All these do tell me I must die,
    And yet my life amend not I.

My ancestors are turned to clay,
    And many of my mates are gone ;
My youngers daily drop away,
    And can I think to 'scape alone?
No, no, I know that I must die,
And yet my life amend not I.

Not Solomon for all his wit,
    Nor Samson, though he were so strong,
No king nor person ever yet
    Could 'scape but death laid him along ;
Wherefore I know that I must die,
    And yet my life amend not I.

Though all the East did quake to hear
    Of Alexander's dreadful name,
And all the West did likewise fear
    To hear of Julius Cęsar's fame,
Yet both by death in dust now lie ;
    Who then can 'scape but he must die?

If none can 'scape death's dreadful dart,
    If rich and poor his beck obey,
If strong, if wise, if all do smart,
    Then I to 'scape shall have no way.
Oh, grant me grace, O God, that I
    My life may mend, sith I must die.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on August 28, 2002 7:47 AM.

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