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Language: English

          How soon doth man decay !  
When clothes are taken from a chest of sweets  
        To swaddle infants, whose young breath  
                Scarce knows the way ;  
        Those clouts are little winding sheets,  
Which do consigne and send them unto death.  
            When boyes go first to bed,  
They step into their voluntarie graves ;  
        Sleep bindes them fast ; onely their breath  
                Makes them not dead.  
        Successive nights, like rolling waves,  
Convey them quickly, who are bound for death.  

            When youth is frank and free,  
And calls for musick, while his veins do swell,  
        All day exchanging mirth and breath  
                In companie ;  
        That musick summons to the knell,  
Which shall befriend him at the houre of death.  
            When man grows staid and wise,  
Getting a house and home, where he may move  
        Within the circle of his breath,  
                Schooling his eyes ;  
        That dumbe inclosure maketh love  
Unto the coffin, that attends his death.  
            When age grows low and weak,  
Marking his grave, and thawing ev'ry yeare,  
        Till all do melt, and drown his breath  
                When he would speak ;  
        A chair or litter shows the biere,  
Which shall convey him to the house of death.  
            Man, ere he is aware,  
Hath put together a solemnitie,  
        And drest his herse, while he has breath  
                As yet to spare.  
        Yet Lord, instruct us so to die  
That all these dyings may be life in death.

Translation(s): FRE

List of language codes

Submitted by Jacques L'oiseleur des Longchamps


Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive)

Available translations, adaptations, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • FRE French (Français) (Guy Laffaille) , title 1: "Mortification", copyright © 2010, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

Text added to the website: 2009-03-21.
Last modified: 2014-06-16 10:03:10
Line count: 36
Word count: 235

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Language: French (Français) after the English

Comme l'homme pourrit vite !
Quand les chiffons sont retirés à une caisse de bonbons
Pour emmailloter des nouveaux-nés, dont le jeune souffle
Connaît à peine le chemin ;
Ces chiffons sont des petites enveloppes,
Qui les confient et les envoient à la mort.

Quand les garçons vont d'abord au lit,
Ils marchent vers leurs tombes spontanément ;
Le sommeil les lie vite ; seul leur souffle
Fait qu'ils ne sont pas morts.
Les nuits successives, comme des vagues qui roulent,
Les conduisent rapidement, eux qui sont liés pour la mort.

Quand un jeune homme est ouvert et libre,
Et demande de la musique, tandis que ses veines se gonflent,
Tout le jour échangeant rires et soupirs
En compagnie ;
Cette musique sonne le glas,
Qui lui vient en aide à l'heure de la mort.

Quand l'homme devient rassis et sage,
Ayant une maison et un foyer, où il peut bouger
À l'intérieur du cercle de son souffle,
Disciplinant ses yeux ;
Cette clôture muette fait l'amour
Sur le cercueil, qui attend sa mort.

Quand l'âge devient las et faible,
Marquant sa tombe, et la dégelant chaque année,
Jusqu'à ce que tout fonde, et son souffle noyé
Quand il voudrait parler,
Un siège ou une civière montre la bière,
Qui le conduira à la maison de la mort.

Un homme, avant qu'il soit au courant,
Ensemble a conduit une cérémonie,
Et a préparé la sienne tant qu'il a du souffle
Encore à épargner.
Maintenant Seigneur, apprends-nous ainsi à mourir
Que tous ces mourants puissent être en vie dans la mort.

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  • Translation from English to French (Français) copyright © 2010 by Guy Laffaille, (re)printed on this website with kind permission. To reprint and distribute this author's work for concert programs, CD booklets, etc., you may ask the copyright-holder(s) directly or ask us; we are authorized to grant permission on their behalf. Please provide the translator's name when contacting us.


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Based on


Text added to the website: 2010-08-01.
Last modified: 2014-06-16 10:03:54
Line count: 36
Word count: 260