by Gideon Burton
after a passage from Bede's Ecclesiastical History of England
The swift flight of a sparrow through a room,
this present life, compared to the unknown
abyss beyond the recent or the soon,
deep ignorance that frames our fleshy bones.
We sit at supper, warmed by friends, by fire
while rain or hail attack the bruising roof;
then, suddenly, arrives the tiny flier,
in one door, out the other. There's the proof:
however warmly safe within this space,
the bird is but a fractioned moment's guest.
So much of life is fluttered, winging haste;
the rising sun is setting in the West.
From out of Winter, fast returning there;
We are but sparrows, beating thinning air.
"The present life man, O king, seems to me, in comparison with that time which is unknown to us, like to the swift flight of a sparow through the room wherein you sit at supper in winter amid your officers and ministers, with a good fire in the midst whilst the storms of rain and snow prevail abroad; the sparrow, I say, flying in at one door and immediately another, whilst he is within is safe from the wintry but after a short space of fair weather he immediately vanishes out of your sight into the dark winter from which he has emerged. So this life of man appears for a short space but of what went before or what is to follow we are ignorant." [source]
Photo: flickr - Flavio@Flickr (adapted)