Time, like an ever rolling stream*
Nothing endures, all is endless flux,
Each wandering shape a pilgrim passing by.
And time itself glides on the ceaseless flow,
A rolling stream – and streams can never stay.
As wave is driven by wave
And each, pursued, pursues the wave ahead,
So time flies on and follows, flies, and follows,
Always, for ever and new. What was before
Is left behind; what never was is now;
And every passing moment is renewed.
Ovid, Metamorphosis (trans. A.D. Melville. Oxford, 1986: p. 28)
The painting is a 1st century AD Roman fresco from Stabiae. It is in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples.
*Isaac Watts, “Our God, Our Help in Ages Past”. It looks like Mr. Watts knew his Ovid.