"Better Fifty Years Of Europe Than A Cycle Of Cathay"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: As part of his morbid musing over the state of human life, the speaker plays with the notion of escaping the troubles of Western society by traveling to the Orient. He has a vision of himself married to a native woman in the jungles of southern Asia. But this idle dream vanishes when he compares the emptiness of that life to the richness of the culture of Britain and Europe, whose civilization has long been the most advanced of the earth. He, as an Englishman, is "the heir of all the ages, in the foremost files of time," and it is his duty to contribute what he can to the vitality of his culture and its constant growth, which is greater in fifty years than a cycle–an age–produces in the East.

Not in vain the distance beacons. Forward,
forward let us range,
Let the great world spin forever down the
ringing grooves of change.
Thro' the shadow of the globe we sweep
into the younger day;
Better fifty years of Europe than a cycle
of Cathay.