Solitude Sweetened

by James Meikle, 1730-1799

Brevity of life

"What is your life? You are a vapor, that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away!" (James 4:14)

What is all this struggle in the world for? Why so many attempts to be something, and have somethingin the sphere of nothing? This struggle for passing vanities, is as if the foam and bubbles should contend for station on the rapid stream—but in a moment they are are gone!

We forget that we are but of yesterday—and tomorrow we are no more. It is a shame to think so much about these few fleeting days—and so little of endless ages.

Let me look to the generations past. How few of our deceased acquaintances are remembered! And how soon, like them, shall we also be forgotten! Perhaps the names of a few, signalized by an uncommon fame, may yet tingle in our ears; but what is this to those who are fixed in their final state? Could it mitigate their misery, who have begun their everlasting howlings, that the whole world were ringing with their praises? Or, could it add to the joy of who have begun their endless hallelujahs, that every tongue were employed in praise to their memory—then well might we be pardoned in our pursuit of fame.

How frail is our life! a pile of grass, a withered leaf, dry stubble, a flower, a breath, brittle clay, fading flesh! How swift is our life! a weaver's shuttle, an eagle, a ship, a wind that passes away, and comes not again. How short is our life! a moment, a breathing. While I bewail a departed friend, death, suddenly seizing me, translates the lamentation to another tongue that is most nearly concerned in me, who also in a little time must follow me into the silent grave, and leave the protracted elegy to be continued by their nearest relations. Thus mourning is continued, though the mourners themselves are hurried away to death in a short time!

Surely I need not be so anxious about a life so short, a state so uncertain, and a world so vain—where I am only a stranger, a pilgrim, a sojourner, and shortly leaving everything below. Let the world, then, go with me as it will, this shall not trouble me, who am daily going through the world, and shall in a little while—go entirely out of the world, to return no more. How, then, shall I spend this short life, my few winged moments, which are all appointed to me? Surely, in nothing better, than in looking out, and laying up for eternity!