MORTALS! around your destin’d heads
Thick fly the shafts of death,*
And lo! the savage spoiler spreads
A thousand toils beneath.
In vain we trifle with our fate,
Try every art in vain;
At best we but prolong the date,
And lengthen out our pain.
Fondly we think all danger fled,
For death is ever nigh;
Outstrips our unavailing speed,
Or meets us as we fly.
Thus the wreck’d mariner may strive
Some desert shore to gain,
Secure of life if he survive
The fury of the main:
But there, to famine doom’d a prey,
Finds the mistaken wretch!
He but escap’d the troubled sea,
To perish on the beach.
Since then in vain we strive to guard
Our frailty from the foe;
Lord, let me live not unprepar’d
To meet the fatal blow!
William Cowper, The Complete Poetical Works of William Cowper