I asked a hoary headed man,
Whose face was haggard, worn and wan,
Scarred with the marks of many a strife
If he could tell me what is life.
He sighed and drooped his withered head,
And leaning on his staff he said:
"Life is a scene of toil and pain,
A search for pleasure or for gain,
A few short years of joys and sorrows,
A race to catch the bright tomorrows,
A flickering flame, a transient gleam,
A bubble passing down the stream,
A flower doomed to swift decay--
To bud and bloom and pass away.
Life is the little space we crave
Between the cradle and the grave,
And soon we cross the little space
And terminate the toilsome race,
Then wearied, we resign our breath,
And life is swallowed up in death."
If death, said I, must end the strife
Such wretched living can't be life,
For who could bear thro' night to grope
Were there no morn to cheer his hope?
Your life is death and cannot be
The life immortal craved by me.
I ask'd a Saint, whose joylit face
Assur'd me of his inward grace,
If he could solve the question sought
And satisfy my anxious thought.
A gleam of hope illum'd his brow,
While with a reverential bow
He said: "'Tis life to know the Lord
And Christ, the true and living word.
This life of faith, or life divine,
Or everlasting life is mine;
'Tis life to triumph over death,
He lives who knows his sins forgiven,
He only lives, who lives for heaven.
There must be first a death of sin
Before you have this life within,
But when the earnest you obtain
To live is Christ, to die is gain.
I know this mortal house of clay
Will soon dissolve and pass away,
Then my immortal soul shall rise
To endless life beyond the skies."
Said I, if thus to live be life
Then let me rush into the strife,
And live to Him whose grace divine
Can quicken this dead soul of mine,
And give me life and conquering faith
To triumph over sin and death.