From "Solitude"...

A minute's length, a zephyr's breath,
Sport of fate, and prey of death,
Tyrant to-day, to-morrow gone,
Distinguish'd only by a stone,
That fain would have the eye to know
Pride's better dust is lodg'd below—
While worms like me are mouldering laid,
With nothing set to say ‘they're dead’—
All the difference, trifling thing,
That notes at last the slave and king.
As wither'd leaves, life's bloom when stopt,
That drop in autumn, so they dropt;
As snails, which in their painted shell
So snugly once were known to dwell,
When in the schoolboy's care we view
The pleasing toys of varied hue,
By age or accident are flown,
The shell left empty, tenant gone—
So pass we from the world's affairs,
And careless vanish from its cares;
So leave, with silent, long farewell,
Vain life—as left the snail his shell.

(lines 213 to 234)
The Poems of John Clare
ed. J. W. Tibble (2 volumes, Dent, 1935)

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