"Warnings point out our danger; gnomons, time: / As these are useless when the sun is set; / So those, but when more glorious Reason shines. / Reason should judge in all; in Reason's eye, / That sedentary shadow travels hard."
— Young, Edward (bap. 1683, d. 1765)
That solar shadow, as it measures life,
It life resembles too: Life speeds away
From point to point, though seeming to stand still.
The cunning fugitive is swift by stealth:
Too subtle is the movement to be seen;
Yet soon man's hour is up, and we are gone.
Warnings point out our danger; gnomons, time:
As these are useless when the sun is set;
So those, but when more glorious Reason shines.
Reason should judge in all; in Reason's eye,
That sedentary shadow travels hard.
But such our gravitation to the wrong,
So prone our hearts to whisper what we wish,
'Tis later with the wise than he's aware;
A Wilmington goes slower than the sun:
And all mankind mistake their time of day;
E'en age itself. Fresh hopes are hourly sown
In furrow'd brows. So gentle life's descent,
We shut our eyes, and think it is a plain.
We take fair days in Winter for the Spring;
And turn our blessings into bane. Since oft
Man must compute that age he cannot feel,
He scarce believes he's older for his years.
Thus, at life's latest eve, we keep in store
One disappointment sure, to crown the rest,--
The disappointment of a promised hour.
(ll. 420-446, p. 62 in CUP edition)
Edward Young, Night the Second. On Time, Death, Friendship. Humbly Inscrib'd to the Right Honourable The Earl of Wilmington (London: Printed for R. Dodsley, 1742).
Text from The Complete Works, Poetry and Prose, of the Rev. Edward Young, LL.D., 2 vols. (London: William Tegg, 1854). <Link to Google Books> Reading Edward Young, Night Thoughts, ed. Stephen Cornford (New York: Cambridge UP, 1989).