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Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 3/The game of life

THE GAME OF LIFE.

 

With eager hand Hope deftly weaves
The mantles that our pride would don,
While busy-finger’d Care unreaves
The garments as we put them on.
We rear our palaces of joy,
And tread them with exulting shout,
Till, crumbling round, ’tis plainly found
Some corner-stones have been left out.
And thus we play the game of Life,
Shadow and substance ever blending;
’Mid flowers of Peace and tares of Strife
Gaily beginning, sadly ending.

The maiden greets her swain to-day,
They jar to-morrow, and she flouts him;
Now she believes whate’er he’ll say,
A month has gone,—alas! she doubts him;
The lover hangs upon a glance,
With glowing trust and earnest sueing;
Next year he rouses from his trance,
And scorns the one he late was wooing.
And thus we play the game of Life,
Our dreams dispell’d, our plans defeated,
And when we’ve lost with pain and cost,
Still stand, as ready to be cheated.

The cooing infant’s rosy mouth
Aptly receives the sweeten’d potion;
When waves are calm, and winds are south,
None see the death-rocks in the ocean.
The rich man toils to “gather up,”
Meaning to bask in Fortune’s clover,
And while he pours into his cup,
Perceives not it is running over.
And thus we play the game of Life,
Now simply snared, now wisely brooding,
Now bribed by smiles, now spreading wiles,
Living deluded and deluding.

The Poet prattles to the stars,
Philosophers dissect the thunder,
But both are stopp’d by crystal bars,
And stand outside to watch and wonder.
We moralise on battle-plains,
Where blood has poured, and fame was won,
We turn and see the baby’s glee
Over his mimic sword and gun.
And thus we play the game of Life,
’Twixt holy Thought and fearful Deed.
Some only stay to work and pray,
And some but live for Crime and Greed.

Our feet of clay trip up each other,
Our wings of ether seek the sky;
We breathe—we are—child follows mother,
Yet none can tell us “How?” or “Why?”
Our hearts, like clocks, keep ticking fast,
We climb and laugh, we fall and weep,
Till, tired of guessing, at the last
We solve the riddle in a sleep.
And thus we play the game of Life,
In motley garbs of Grief and Pleasure,
Till we are drest in that green vest
For which the sexton takes our measure.

Eliza Cook.