Expert Answers
M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As the title implies, "Sic Vita" or "Such is Life" is a reflection by Dr. Henry King, where he metaphorically alludes to the brevity of man from a perspective of the big scheme of things.

Life is ephemeral; it is short, and it passes through faster than we think. We try to hold on to a pattern, or an order, of doing things in order to understand life better and make the best of it. Some of us are even able to excel to a point so great that we even influence others, change lives, or save them. Yet, even at our brightest, the good that we influence in others will last, but that moment is borrowed. Life is borrowed, and we will eventually all dilute into the spiritual realm no matter who we are, or what we have accomplished

Even such is man, whose borrowed light
Is straight called in, and paid to night.

Far from presenting life as a tragedy, King actually wants to reminds us that it is our job to make something out of this borrowed time and borrowed lights. Yet, we cannot dwell on what cannot be changed, nor waste time in things that are just impossible to fix. Time is of the essence, and does not last forever.

The wind blows out, the bubble dies,
The spring entombed in autumn lies,
The dew dries up, the star is shot,
The flight is past, and man forgot

The allegory to nature is clear: Like every other process of nature, our lives will hit maturation and then will fade out whether quickly or slowly. It is, from the standpoint of the modern eye, which witnesses life and loss so often, a message to those who have the honor of seeing their lives extend toward old age. To know better than waste the light and the borrowed time that they have in something that is not worthwhile. Appreciate every second of your existence.

Michael Ugulini eNotes educator| Certified Educator

“Sic Vita”, at its core, is about the transience of man. Reading it I’m reminded of a verse in the New Testament, which states:

For, "All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall,

                                    [1 Peter 1:24; New international Version (NIV)]

The writer of this poem, Henry King, Bishop of Chichester, focuses on the fact that human beings will, as stated above, wither, no matter their respective stations in life. Henry King relates a bevy of occurrences that mirror what the life of man eventually becomes.

We will all die one day. We will all, metaphorically speaking: fall like a star; descend down, such as eagles in flight; die as a diminishing wind; and in a sense, pop as bubbles burst and disappear.

I believe this poem is a treatise on the fact that we should not exalt ourselves to too lofty of a position. No matter our wealth, or lack thereof; no matter our goals and achievements (which can be noble and noteworthy), and no matter our social standing, we all, in the end, have no control over Death in and of ourselves.

The poem is very hard-hitting in the finality of its final line:

The flight is past, and man forgot.

It is said that Death is the great leveler, and this is propounded greatly in this poem. It is a poem that makes one stop and think about the important things in life, as we scurry to and fro in an increasingly hectic, complicated and chaotic world.

This image has been Flagged as inappropriate Click to unflag
Image (1 of 1)
epollock | Student
“Sic Vita” is virtually a tabular arrangement of metaphorical language, and it is memorable for this reason. There are six similes in lines 1–6, ranging from the objects in the night sky to drops of dew on leaves and grass. All are comparisons from Nature, and all describe motions that come to an end. In lines 7 and 8, human life is presented as light, so that night comes to represent death. Human light or life is borrowed, and can and will be called in for payment; that is, death. The source from which life is borrowed is God or Nature. Lines 9–12 are not logically essential, but without them, lines 7 and 8 would have to bear the weight of the poem, and the balance would be skewed. By adding these lines, King not only underscores his point, but also does so in rhythms that give the poem stateliness, importance, and closure. The poem emphasizes the mutability and brevity of human existence, but similes like that of the falling star and the rippling of water suggest that life is also beautiful, desirable, and admirable, despite its shortness.

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question