The Journey by Christopher Harvey

Life is a journey. From our mothers’ wombs,
As houses, we set out; and in our tombs,
As inns, we rest, till it be time to rise.
‘Twixt rocks and gulfs our narrow footpath lies;
Haughty presumption and hell-deep despair
Make our way dangerous, though seeming fair.
The world, with its inticements sleek and sly,
Slabbers our steps, and makes them slippery.
The flesh, with its corruptions, clogs our feet,
And burdens us with loads of lusts unmeet.
The devil where we tread doth spread his snares,
And with temptations takes us unawares.
Our footsteps are our thoughts, our words, our works;
These carry us along; in these there lurks
Envy, lust, avarice, ambition,
The crooked turnings to perdition.
One while we creep amongst the thorny brakes
Of worldly profits; and the devil takes
Delight to see us pierce ourselves with sorrow
To-day, by thinking what may be to-morrow.
Another while we wade and wallow in
Puddles of pleasure; and we never lin [cease]
Daubing ourselves with dirty damn’d delights,
Till self-begotten pain our pleasure frights.
Sometimes we scramble to get up the banks
Of icy honour; and we break our ranks
To step before our fellows; though they say,
He soonest tyreth that still leads the way.
Sometimes, when others justle and provoke us,
We stir that dust ourselves that serves to choak us;
And raise those tempests of contention which
Blow us beside the way into the ditch.
Our minds should be our guids; but they are blind:
Our wills outrun our wits, or lag behind.
Our furious passions, like unbridled jades,
Hurry us headlong to th’ infernal shades.
If God be not our guide, our guard, our friend,
Eternal death will be our journey’s end.

From: Harvey, Christopher and Grosart, Alexander B. (ed.), The Complete Poems of Christopher Harvey, for the first time fully collected and collated with the original and early editions; and in quarto, with original illustrations. Being a Supplementary Volume to the Complete Works in Verse and Prose of George Herbert, 1874, Robson and Sons: London, pp. 81-82.


Date: 1640

By: Christopher Harvey (1597-1663)


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