Scripture Verse

Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. Genesis 3:19


Maurice Greene

Words: At­trib­ut­ed to Mi­chael Bruce (1746–1767), alt.

Music: St. Ni­cho­las (Greene) Mau­rice Greene (1696–1755) (🔊 pdf nwc).

Alternate Tune:

  • St. Ma­ry, Welsh Psal­ter, 1621 (🔊 pdf nwc)


Few are thy days, and full of woe,
O man of woman born!
Thy doom is written, Dust thou art,
And shalt to dust return.

Determined are the days that fly
Successive o’er thy head;
The numbered hour is on the wing,
That lays thee with the dead.

Alas! the little day of life
Is shorter than a span;
Yet black with thousand hidden ills
To miserable man.

Gay is thy morning; flattering hope
Thy sprightly step attends;
But soon the tempest howls behind,
And then dark night descends.

Before its splendid hour, the cloud
Comes o’er the beam of light:
A pilgrim in a weary land,
Man tarries but a night.

Behold! sad emblem of thy state,
The flowers that paint the field;
Or trees, that crown the mountain’s brow,
And boughs and blossoms yield.

When chill the blast of winter blows,
Away the summer flies,
The flowers resign their sunny robes,
And all their beauty dies.

Nipped by the year, the forest fades;
And, shaking to the wind,
The leaves toss to and fro, and streak
The wilderness behind.

The winter past, reviving flowers
Anew shall paint the plain;
The woods shall hear the voice of spring,
And flourish green again:

But man departs this earthly scene,
Ah! never to return!
No second spring shall e’er revive
The ashes of the urn.

The inexorable doors of death,
What hand can e’er unfold?
Who from the cerements of the tomb
Can raise the human mould?

The mighty flood that rolls along
Its torrents to the main,
The waters lost can ne’er recall
From that abyss again.

The days, the years, the ages, dark
Descending down to night,
Can never, never be redeemed
Back to the gates of light.

So man departs the living scene,
To night’s perpetual gloom;
The voice of morning ne’er shall break
The slumbers of the tomb.

Where are our fathers? whither gone
The mighty men of old?
The patriarchs, prophets, princes, kings,
In sacred books enrolled?

Gone to the resting place of man,
The everlasting home,
Where ages past have gone before,
Where future ages come.

Thus Nature poured the wail of woe,
And urged her earnest cry;
Her voice in agony extreme
Ascended to the sky.

The Almighty heard; then from His throne
In majesty He rose;
And from the heav’n, that opened wide,
His voice in mercy flows.

“When mortal man resigns his breath,
And falls a clod of clay,
The soul immortal wings its flight
To never setting day.

Prepared of old for wicked men
The bed of torment lies;
The just shall enter into bliss
Immortal in the skies.