TIME, as Seen by Four Authors Separated by Centuries but Extremely Close in Thought

Pedro Calderon de la Barca lived from 1600-1681. His play La Vida es Sueno investigates the themes of destiny and free will. It was most recently performed in 2007.

Following is Sigismundo's speech in which he compares life to a dream from which one never awakens:

Que es la vida? Un frenesi.

Que es la vida? Una ilusion, una sombra, una ficcion,

Y el major es pequeno

Que todo la vida es sueno

Y los suenos, suenos son.

What is life? A madness.

What is life? An illusion, a shadow, a story,

And the greatest good can be insignificant,

In that all of life is a dream,

And the dreams are dreams.

Andrew Marvell (1621-1678) was a little more practical in his view of the subject of Time:

Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love's day;
Thou by the Indian Ganges' side
Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the Flood;
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow.
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast,
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart.
For, lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.

But at my back I always hear
Time's winged chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found,
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song; then worms shall try
That long preserv'd virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust.
The grave's a fine and private place,
But none I think do there embrace.

Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may;
And now, like am'rous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour,
Than languish in his slow-chapp'd power.
Let us roll all our strength, and all
Our sweetness, up into one ball;
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Thorough the iron gates of life.
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.

Writer Jeffrey Deaver, author of the Lincoln Rhyme mysteries, looked at it another way, though the idea is disturbingly similar to Calderon's:

Life is an Illusion.

The past is Memory...the Future is Imagination...

The only thing real is this one Instant of the Present...and that is

Constantly changing from Imagination to Memory....

And then there's the view of a nameless contemporary writer, as reflected in this poem circa 1990....


Here I sit, seeing nothing

with my bottle and my glass,

wondering where it all went,

where did Time go so fast?

Where was I as you grew older,

exchanging your bike for a cane,

hiding your eyes behind Coke bottles,

finding you can't dance without pain?

If I look now in the mirror

whose face would I see?

A wrinkled, false-toothed old geezer

staring back at me?

Whoever he is, he isn't me, so I'll

neither look nor pry.

I'll just sit and finish my drink,

and let Time once more pass me by.

Think about it--Old Tempus will always fugit, no matter how much we fidget!

2 comments

  1. Mary Marvella // February 16, 2008 at 11:44 PM  

    Deep thinking,girl!

  2. Nightingale // February 17, 2008 at 12:15 PM  

    I loved the last quote. It's so true. I don't know who that old woman in the mirror is.

    Reminds me of Barbara Stanwick in "Thorn Birds" talking to young, handsome Richard Chamberlain, "There's a young woman in this old body."