"All Men Think All Men Mortal, But Themselves"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: In Young's own time this poem was honored as a great philosophical and religious poem by an Anglican clergyman, for Young sought to combat the tide of deism and to recall to men's minds the great Christian doctrine of a life after this one. In order to remind his readers of the next life, Young concentrated upon death, the gate through which the Christian must pass to everlasting life. We must remember death and prepare for it both religiously and psychologically; so runs Young's message. He realizes that it is difficult for each human being to recognize his own mortality, even though we see people about us dying. At various stages, he says, we say we shall reform–as children, at thirty, at forty, at fifty–but never do. The poet asks why every man talks about leading a better life, promises to lead a better life, and yet fails. He says:

And why? Because he thinks himself immortal.
All men think all men mortal, but themselves;
Themselves, when some alarming shock of fate
Strikes through their wounded hearts the sudden dread;
But their hearts wounded, like the wounded air,
Soon close; where pass'd the shaft, no trace is found.
As from the wing no scar the sky retains;
The parted wave no furrow from the keel;
So dies in human hearts the thought of death.