Once, in the flight of ages past,
There lived a man, and who was he?
Mortal! howe’er thy lot be cast,
That man resembled thee.
Unknown the region of his birth;
The land in which he died unknown;
His name has perished from the earth;
This truth survives alone:
That joy and grief and hope and fear,
Alternate triumphed in his breast;
His bliss and woe – a smile, a tear!
Oblivion hides the rest.
He suffered – but his pangs are o’er;
Enjoyed – but his delights are fled;
Had friends – his friends are now no more;
And foes – his foes are dead.
He saw whatever thou hast seen;
Encountered all that troubles thee;
He was – whatever thou hast been;
He is – what thou shalt be.
The rolling seasons, day and night,
Sun, moon, and stars, the earth and man,
Erewhile his portion, life, and light,
To him exist in vain.
The clouds and sunbeams, o’er his eye
That once their shades and glory threw,
Have left in yonder silent sky
No vestige where they flew.
The annals of the human race,
Their ruins, since the world began,
Of him afford no other trace
Than this – there lived a man.
– James Montgomery