The Complaint: Or, Night Thoughts "Procrastination Is The Thief Of Time"

Edward Young

"Procrastination Is The Thief Of Time"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: In the eighteenth century this poem was honored next to Milton's Paradise Lost. Young, a conservative Anglican clergyman, hoped to use poetry again as a vehicle of religious truth. He also wished to write a doctrine omitted, to Young's disappointment, from Pope's An Essay on Man, the doctrine of belief in a future existence. This doctrine is part of a poem for which there is also a biographical background in the life of the poet. Young lost to death three persons close to him, and his mourning about them is to a modern reader the most obvious aspect of the poem. It is in a romantic tradition which was almost unknown in the eighteenth century, when poets seldom wrote about themselves. In this part of the poem advice is offered Lorenzo to remember Philander, who has failed to prepare for death and the future life:

Beware, Lorenzo! a slow-sudden death
How dreadful that deliberate surprise!
Be wise to-day; 'tis madness to defer;
Next day the fatal precedent will plead;
Thus on, till wisdom is push'd out of life.
Procrastination is the thief of time;
Year after year it steals, till all are fled,
And to the mercies of a moment leaves
The vast concerns of an eternal scene.