The Vanity of Riches

William Dyce - Omnia Vanitas

William Bryce – Omnia Vanitas

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The Vanity of Riches

‘Tis Wisdom speaks! – ye great, attend!

Aloud she cries, “Shall riches tend

To make its owner look with scorn

On those he calls the lower born?

Can honour, fame, renown, or wealth,

Secure that peerless blessing, health?

Can they one hour prolong man’s breath,

Or bribe th’ impartial hand of Death?

To please his ear, men may repeat,

‘Most mighty, noble, high-born, great;’

Yet all these sounding titles must

At last conclude with ‘Dust to dust.’

Death to the great pays no respect;

No substitute will he accept;

For slaves, and lords, and clowns, and kings,

He to an equal meanness brings.

At mighty rulers of the earth,

At men of noble blood and birth,

He points his dart; and, lo! they fall,

To share the common lot of all.

Thus bends their power, to death a prey:

They mingle with their native clay:

They then no lofty titles crave:

There’s no ambition in the grave:

No stately honours there await,

As no distinctions mark the great.

To wound no more will scorners aim,

For kindred with the worms they claim:

Unconsciously they sleep in death;

Their honours vanish with their breath;

Their pomp is as a summer flower,

Whose beauties droop beneath a shower.

Ah, what did he of old proclaim,

The man who had for wisdom fame,

Whom Heaven abundantly did bless,

All heart could wish did he possess,

When his achievements he survey’d,

And pomp in Reason’s scale was weigh’d?

Thus its true value he express’d:

‘All is but vanity at best.’ “

Mary M. Colling, 1831

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