All is Vanity

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All is Vanity  (1663) 
by Andreas Gryphius, translated by Scott Horton

You will see wherever you look only vanity on this earth.
What one man builds today, another tears down tomorrow;
Where now cities stand, a meadow will be,
Upon which a shepherd’s child will play with the herds.

What now blooms in magnificence, will soon be tread asunder;
What today pounds with defiance, tomorrow is ash and bone;
There is nothing which is eternal, neither ore nor marble.
Now fortune smiles upon us, but soon troubles will thunder.

The fame of great deeds must pass like a dream.
Why should the game of time, the simple human, persist?
Oh, what is all of this that we hold to be exquisite,

But wicked vanities, as shadow, dust and wind
But a meadow flower which one can find no more!
Yet not a single man wants to contemplate what is eternal.