A Spanish Burden

IN a wide - winged old farmhouse, where I was a guest during the past summer, the children of the family brought and showed me an hereditary treasure in the shape of an hourglass. Clumsy it was in its structure, and at some luckless but now immemorial period it had been broken, and somewhat rudely patched together. Some former possessor, with a taste for languages, had inscribed upon its standard the following legend, —

Hay mas tiempo que vida.
(There is more time than life.)

The children proposed that we should measure off an hour ; and, accordingly, the ancestral timepiece found itself in unwonted occupation. Meanwhile, I resumed the book I had been reading, and the children went to their play. From time to time I glanced at the slender gliding stream of golden-brown sands. From time to time back came the children to indulge in conjecture as to the portion of the hour already passed. How long to them — but how short to me ! And when the last atom had slipped through the upper glass, while the lower contained a little umber tumulus like the hour’s grave, of freshly heaped sand ; and when the children, relieved of the tedium of burying time, had gone back “ for good ” to their play, certain lines built around the inscribed legend began to join themselves together in my mind. They might be called The Burden of the Hourglass ; else, A Ballad of Sliding Sands, but their inspiration, such as it was, must be credited to the unknown scholar with a taste for Spanish proverbial lore : —


Would that some Power, when our life is done,
Might do as the hand that reverses the glass
When the sliding sands of the hour are run ;
That we out of Age into Youth might pass!
But no — ah, no :
Since ever as time shall grow
Dwindles our stay beneath the sun, —
Mas tiempo que vida.


Time was the mocker that did contemn
Thrones antique and the pride of man ;
Nor Valor nor Beauty might ever stem
The desert that flowed from the sands that ran
So still, so swift, —
Though they strove with the covering drift;
Yes, there was more time than life for them —
Mas tiempo que vida.


Out of the gloom of the years, where they lie,
How they beckon and smile, who were blithe of old !
Borne on the wind they go wavering by,
And converse strange with our spirits hold ;
For, as they fade
Into realms of Silence and Shade,
“ There is more time than life ! ” they cry —
Mas tiempo que vida.


Would that our life like the flower’s might be —
The flower of an hour, which the morning steals;
For, the while it lasts, it liveth free
Of the cankering fear that each heart conceals.
Yet the rose, the rose,
Seemeth to sigh, as it goes,
“ There is more time than life, thou ’It see,” —
Mas tiempo que vida.