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About this Poem 

“Life” by Edith Wharton first appeared in Scribner's Magazine in June 1894.

Life

Life, like a marble block, is given to all,
A blank, inchoate mass of years and days,
Whence one with ardent chisel swift essays
Some shape of strength or symmetry to call;
One shatters it in bits to mend a wall;
One in a craftier hand the chisel lays,
And one, to wake the mirth in Lesbia’s gaze,
Carves it apace in toys fantastical.

But least is he who, with enchanted eyes
Filled with high visions of fair shapes to be,
Muses which god he shall immortalize
In the proud Parian’s perpetuity,
Till twilight warns him from the punctual skies
That the night cometh wherein none shall see.

This poem is in the public domain. 

This poem is in the public domain. 

Edith Wharton

Edith Wharton

Edith Wharton, born January 24, 1862, is the author of numerous books, including Artemis to Actaeon and Other Verse (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1909) and Verses (privately printed, 1878).

by this poet

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Before the clepsydra had bound the days
Man tethered Change to his fixed star, and said:
"The elder races, that long since are dead,
Marched by that light; it swerves not from its base
Though all the worlds about it wax and fade."

When Egypt saw it, fast in reeling spheres,
Her

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Like Crusoe with the bootless gold we stand 
Upon the desert verge of death, and say: 
“What shall avail the woes of yesterday 
To buy to-morrow’s wisdom, in the land 
Whose currency is strange unto our hand? 
In life’s small market they had served to pay 
Some late-found

poem

I

Immense, august, like some Titanic bloom, 
   The mighty choir unfolds its lithic core, 
Petalled with panes of azure, gules and or, 
   Splendidly lambent in the Gothic gloom, 
And stamened with keen flamelets that illume 
   The pale high-altar. On the prayer-worn floor, 
By