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There is an old age which has more youth of heart than youth itself, says the author of "The Caxtons," when describing one whose was the age when we most sensitively enjoy the mere sense of existence, when memories are mellowed in the hues of time, and faith softens into harmony all their asperities and harshness (as with the leaves on Southey's holly tree), and on the verge of life the angels are nearer to us than of yore.
Father Time, as Mr. Dickens has somewhere said, is not always a hard parent, and, though he tarries for none of his children, often lays his hand lightly upon those who have used him well; making them old men and women inexorably enough, but leaving their hearts and spirits young and in full vigour. With such people, he adds, the grey head is but the impression of Father Time's hand in giving them his blessing, and every wrinkle but a notch in the quiet calendar of a well spent life.
Geoffrey Crayon, again, declares that, for his part, whenever he sees a hale, hearty old man, who has jostled through the rough path of the world without having worn away the fine edge of his feelings or blunted his sensibility to natural or moral beauty, he compares him to the evergreen of the forest, whose colours, instead of fading at the approach of winter, seem to assume additional lustre when contrasted with the surrounding desolation. The comparison is metrically improved by Southey in some verses (quoted on a later page) which long preceded the placid prose of Washington Irving.
What a cheery picture is that of Shakspeare's fourscoreyears-old Adam, eager to start on a weary tramp with his young master !
66 . . . Let me be your servant:
Though I look old, yet I am strong and lusty :
Frosty, but kindly : let me go with you."
je jouis encore d'une santé robuste.” The conclusion of Overbury's character portrait of a Noble Spirit is, that Time goeth not from him but with him, and he feels age more by the strength of his soul than the weakness of his body; thus feels he no pain, but esteems all such things as friends, that desire to file off his fetters and help him out of prison. The tint of green in such an old age is indeed of another shade altogether from that satirised by Young :
“ Though grey our heads, our thoughts and aims are green ;
Like damaged clocks, whose hand and bell dissent :
Wilhelm von Humboldt, bordering on the close of his sixth decade, professes in one of his letters to have always looked forward to old age with peculiar delight, and now that he is approaching it he finds his expectations surpassed. Telling his tale of years to his correspondent, he adds: “And having been subject to but very few bodily afflictions—having led a very regular life, and indulged in no excitements which injure health–I have not many infirmities." Altogether he bade fair, like Wordsworth's yeoman, should he live as long, to have
“... as white a head and fresh a cheek
To Mrs. Leadbeater, worthy type of a worthy race, is Mrs. Trench writing, -and both ladies excel in letter writing,—when she says of the stings of death arising from those errors and those crimes from which the sobriety and staid simplicity of the Friends happily keep them at a distance, and of the complicated ailments produced by the madness of luxurious tables and studied refinements of indolence and ease: “from such your Society seem in general happily exempt, and fall, like the nipped blossom or the ripened fruit, by an end ' without sin, without shame, and as free from pain as may be.' Such was the end prayed for by the good Bishop Wilson, and may such be ours.”
Discussing the superhuman length of days said to have been enjoyed by many of the old British saints, Fuller, in his “ Church History," calls it “a wonder to see how many Methuselahs, extreme aged men, these times did produce," and then goes into the reason of the matter in a way that has been called half pious, half philosophical : “Some reason whereof may be alleged. Because of ... their temperate diet, whilst many of our age spill their radical moisture through the leaks of their own luxury.” A late author, commenting on the fatal gravitation towards decay and decomposition that seems to mark Mahometan institutions, which, at this day, exhibit one uniform spectacle of Mahometan ruins,—"all the great Moslem nations being already in a Strulbrug state," — refers to the fact that the religious principles of the Arabian prophet TM offer a permanent bounty on sensuality; so that every man who serves a Mahometan state faithfully and brilliantly at twenty-five is incapacitated at thirty-five for any further service, from the very nature of the rewards which he receives from the state."
Hear Robert Tannahill, pointing a moral from Allan Ramsay's simply adorned tale of the “Gentle Shepherd":
“Frae Claud and Simon would we draw a moral,
Nor shaw the least regret that they're turned auld.” At a crisis in the illness of the veteran Waife, in a well read story, the physician declares any hope of recovery to depend now on what degree of rallying power may be left to the patient. “Fortunately his frame is robust. Do you know his habits ?" a bystander is asked ; and replies, “ Most temperate, most innocent"; whereupon the doctor is sanguine of a favourable issue. And anon we read that “Nature, fortified by the
temperate, innocent habits' which husband up her powers, had dislodged her enemy." And again, of another patient, on a later page : “Thanks to his temperance and his constitutional dislike to self-indulgence in worry, he may jog on to eighty, in spite of the stethoscope.” Nor will readers of Fenni
more Cooper have forgotten the description of the last days of Hawkeye, the deerslayer and pathfinder, whose approaching end was not to be ascribed to any positive disease, but to a gradual and mild decay of the physical powers : life seemed at times ready to depart, and then again as if it would reanimate the sinking form, in reluctance to "give up the possession of a tenement that had never been undermined by vice or corrupted by disease.” “The old man was reaping the rewards of a life so remarkable for its temperance and activity in a tranquil and placid death."
In two early poems, of some half dozen stanzas each, Southey wrote the praises and extolled the charms of a green old age. One of these lyrics, composed at Westbury in 1799, is entitled, “ The Old Man's Comforts, and How he Gained Them,” and thus begins :
“ You are old, Father William,' the young man cried,
• The few locks which are left you are grey:
Now tell me the reason, I pray.'
'I remembered that youth would fly fast,
That I never might need them at last.'” In the other lyrical poem, “The Holly Tree," written at the same place, a year before, Southey moralises on what he recognises as “ emblems” in the arrangement and formation of the leaves—keen and prickly below, smooth and pointless above. With only a part of these emblematical lessons are we here concerned. He aspires to live down “all vain asperities” day by day, till the smooth temper of his age resemble the high leaves upon the holly tree. And he aspires, in Father William's sense, to remember in the days of his youth that youth cannot last, and to take thought for the evening of life to such good purpose that at evening time there shall be light-light from above, kindled at no earthly flame, but itself a vital spark of heavenly fire, a shining light that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.
“And as when all the summer trees are seen
So bright and green,
Less bright than they;
The thoughtless throng,
More grave than they,
REPROACH IN EXCESS.
2 CORINTHIANS ii. 6, 7. THE Corinthian transgressor had suffered enough, the
1 apostle ruled, when occasion arose for a second epistle to the church at Corinth; to suffer for his transgression was meet and right, but he was not to be crushed. Rebuke had been a stern duty, but no longer such rebukes as to break the heart. Reproach had been necessary; but it was no longer expedient to utter reproaches that would crush the spirit of the man altogether. The bruised reed was not to be broken outright. Sufficient to such a man was the punishment already inflicted of many; so that now, and in the opposite direction, “ye ought rather," urges St. Paul, “ to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up in overmuch sorrow.”
Plutarch somewhere observes that as even honey makes a wounded or ulcerated member smart, so it often happens that a reproof, although charged to the full with both truth and sense, hurts and irritates the distressed, if it is not mild and gentle in the application. “ Gently with the rowels on a foundered steed.” Schlegel complains that Euripides in the