Fear no more the heat o’ the sun; Nor the furious winter’s rages, Thou thy worldly task hast done, Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages; Golden lads and girls all must, As chimney sweepers come to dust.
Fear no more the frown of the great, Thou art past the tyrant’s stroke: Care no more to clothe and eat; To thee the reed is as the oak: The sceptre, learning, physic, must All follow this, and come to dust.
Fear no more the lightning-flash, Nor the all-dread thunder-stone; Fear not slander, censure rash; Thou hast finished joy and moan; All lovers young, all lovers must Consign to thee, and come to dust.
No exorciser harm thee! Nor no witchcraft charm thee! Ghost unlaid forbear thee! Nothing ill come near thee! Quiet consummation have; And renowned be thy grave!
Circa 1700, this high-karat gold skeletal band ring is an example of “Memento Mori” jewelry, which dates to the 16th through the 18th centuries. It was intended to remind the wearer of his or her mortality (memento mori translates to “remember you must die”), and of the fleeting nature of time.
Skeletons, skulls, and coffins often figure into the designs, and here a full skeleton circles the ring. Other symbols of mortality and immortality are depicted, including a death’s-head skull, an hourglass (tempus fugit), and a flower. The interior is engraved with a posy motto: “I am gone follow after” and the initials AWI.