Life

By Anna Lætitia Barbauld 1743–1825 Anna Laetitia Barbauld

Animula, vagula, blandula.

Life! I know not what thou art,
   But know that thou and I must part;
   And when, or how, or where we met,
   I own to me’s a secret yet.
   But this I know, when thou art fled,
   Where’er they lay these limbs, this head,
   No clod so valueless shall be,
   As all that then remains of me.
   O whither, whither dost thou fly,
   Where bend unseen thy trackless course,
      And in this strange divorce,
Ah tell where I must seek this compound I?

To the vast ocean of empyreal flame,
      From whence thy essence came,
      Dost thou thy flight pursue, when freed
      From matter’s base encumbering weed?
         Or dost thou, hid from sight,
         Wait, like some spell-bound knight,
Through blank oblivious years th’ appointed hour,
To break thy trance and reassume thy power?
Yet canst thou without thought or feeling be?
O say what art thou, when no more thou ’rt thee?

      Life! we’ve been long together,
      Through pleasant and through cloudy weather;
         ’Tis hard to part when friends are dear;
         Perhaps ’t will cost a sigh, a tear;
         Then steal away, give little warning,
            Choose thine own time;
      Say not Good night, but in some brighter clime
            Bid me Good morning.

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Poet Anna Lætitia Barbauld 1743–1825

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Romantic

Subjects Living, Death, Time & Brevity, Faith & Doubt

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

Biography

Anna Laetitia Barbauld (1743-1825) was educated at home by her mother in Leicestershire, England. She married Rochemont Barbauld in 1772 and with her husband managed the Palgrave School in Suffolk. Barbauld’s early poetry reflects her involvement with children and child rearing. Poems appeared in 1772, followed by Lessons for Children (1779) and Hymns in Prose for Children (1781). Her later work addressed social and . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Death, Time & Brevity, Faith & Doubt

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Romantic

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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