From a 1934 translation of Moses Ibn Ezra's אשר בנה עלי ארץ. It reminds me much of Qohelet (Ecclesiastes), but almost darker in a way. Then again, I'm of the school of thought that Qohelet was a rather uplifting book, if anything. This, on the other hand, is dark, I think. This poem was found in a text by the JPS from 1934, and the poem was translated by Solomon Solis-Cohen. The book itself is part of a collection of Jewish Classics published in the 1930s.
"I Have Seen Upon the Earth"
I have seen upon the earth spacious mansions,
Palaces of ivory, with lofty chambers
And pillars upon carved pedestals --
Houses richly adorned and filled with things of
And, as in a twinkling, I Have seen them heaps of ruins,
Wherein none might dwell.
Tell me: Where are they that builded?
And where are they that inhabited?
Where are their souls and where are their bodies?
And what hope is there for man,
Save to await death,
With the grave ever before his eyes --
For time is a herdsman,
And death like a knife,
And all that live, as sheep.
Over the coming weeks you'll get some beautiful glimpses into this project, because, although some might view these books as extremely modern and not worth a second glance, they are definitive pieces of literature for modern, American Judaism. And in our day of e-this and e-that, to hold a book from 1861 and smell the history and feel the cover sandpapering your hands is something priceless and beautiful.