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Youth a passionate lover; Age a chill disparager: Youth incessantly regarding the spring; Age handing to it a glass that sadly forecasts the autumn, and perhaps that is not of power enough to hint a better spring beyond : Youth is often too hopeful; Age too prone to discourage.
Oh! that glad atmosphere of youth ; when we don't exist but live; when life is a marble quarry, and we the sculptor that has never yet come, nor will; when our limbs are light as though winged; when our spirits are generous, impulsive, unselfish, noble; not yet limed with the world's snares, not worn down and clipped to a sorry limp upon the world's rough, dusty road; when the past is glad, and the present enjoyable; and the future--oh! what is it not ?
Oh, days of hope, and resolve, and anticipation! cherry trees crammed with white blossom against a perfectly blue sky! When you come to count the cherries, after the frosts, and the blights, and the birds, there may be but a dismal crop.
But who would therefore shake down the light, massed, abundant silver, from the fairy trees, and leave them bare, before that disenchanting which must come ?
Young days! the poets are full of them, although their verse cannot other than breathe to them
“A welcome mixed with sighs.”
Their songs look back somewhat, but it is no retrospect of scorn; rather, an unutterable yearning of tenderness and love.
“ The times when I remember to have been
These they remember with a fervent desiring regret.
It seems an ungracious task to walk by the steps of Youth with a disenchanting wand; a wand that only reveals the seed of death in every bud, and there stops; pointing to nothing beyond, that cannot disappoint and change. And yet this, too often, is the chosen office of the older traveller. He takes away what was the all of Youth, and, having thus begrared, leaves him to grow crabbed too. He points out the rottenness of the bough to which youth is clinging; and leaves him by the abyss with no other better support indicated. He peels off the smooth cheek and the red lips, and reveals the skull. But he speaks not of a way by which this corruptible may put on incorruption; this mortal may put on immortality.
One would think that if he must shake down some blossoms that have no germ of fruit, he would do even this gently, and with a tender hand; and with something of old reminiscent love towards the fragile fairy petals, as they shower down, and glorify the dark mould about the tree. They were dreams, dreams only; but still fair dreams, generous
dreams ; lovely excesses of a heart over-rich and exuberant in all glad, and bright, and hopeful, and joyous instincts, and schemes, and imaginings. Shower them down; let their silver starry whiteness change into brown mould ;—it is well. They shall manure better blossoms, that shall develop into lasting fruit. But, as you were once clad, like an angel, in such white, perishable bloom, shake not the lithe tree with rough, unkindly hand. Reverence mere beauty in the Blossom-time of human life! And, be assured, the hand that rudely sways it backward and forward, is shaking off germs that might have been fruit, as well as the white useless petals at which you sneer. You may, if you lovingly and wisely discriminate, own the necessity of some rough winds being sent to make the severance. But the MASTER will not be pleased with that skilless gardener whose roughness hath injured the tree, and diminished the crop.
I am not an old man ; nay, I have not yet quite reached the half-way house. Nevertheless, I know I have to keep a watch over myself, lest I should chill feelings that once, in myself, yearned for sympathy from others ;-lest I should tread down crocuses and snowdrops under my feet, that care to wander only in quest of useful mushrooms now.
I have often thought that I would write down, whilst young-indecd at the different stages-feelings and thoughts I had, and wants and yearnings for sympathy, but which older friends had snubbed or checked. For I thought that then, perhaps, when the early glory of my day had become a sober gray, I should remember the glow that had faded, the glory that had died; childhood's glad dawn, and youth's gorgeous heaven. And I thought that, where the feeling perhaps had departed, the memory of it might abide, and that I should be thus less separated by a wide gap from the younger hearts about me, than many who had let lichens quite overgrow the once bright and polished rind. I thought that thus I might still remember to take a kindly interest in pursuits and employments that had lost for me their once strong fascination; I hoped that the younger might still make a friend, a confidant, of the older man, who, while he advised, yet did not chill ; nor made his warnings discouragements; nor his reproof, a voice across a gulf. I had rather they would look at my hoar hairs as the scattering of the blackthorn, than as the chilling of snow.
I have thought, I will live not only in my own closing age, but in theirs, which is opening. I will love their Poets, be forbearing with their changes of dress, share even in spirit their sports, from which my less active limbs are debarred. They shall bring to me their loves, their friendships, their studies, their relaxations, their scrapes and their repentings. My very reproofs shall be loving, my eyes always more compassionate than stern. I will be one of them still, in a measureolder, graver, quieter, yet with a fresh heart of sympathy; and in this, like, in some faint degree, to that Friend and Father in Heaven-that they shall come to me most in the time of most need.
So I have dreamed: will the dream come true ? All have times (except the complete Bankrupt) when old feelings-half forgotten, never forgotten-come back with strange, sweet, sad suddenness; and some bank having given way, some barrier that the world has built
“Far back, through creeks and inlets making,
Comes silent, flooding in, the main."
Most have times, I know, when the "eyes are dim with childish tears ;" the “ heart is idly stirred, for the same sound is in” the “ears, which in those days” we “heard.” Most, at times, can enter into that pathetic description of a heart grown commonplace somewhat, and which has given up youth's gold horizon for the dull perspective of the desks of a counting-house; most, I say, can understand such an one, even in the room of a London tavern. In the quiet half-hour of leisure, after dinner, through the steam of chops, and the change of guests, and the rustle of papers, and the hurry of waiters-calling back some fresher, brighter, better scenes and feelings that are not dead, but only laid aside. There, in that unromantic dull room in that dingy street, while you watch that corpulent, respectable, more than middle-aged man, do you divine how far away he has wandered from the scene and the society ? In his meditative mind, the Muse of memory -rather, Mnemosyne, the Mother of the Muses-is busy.
« Old wishes, ghosts of broken plans,
And phantom hopes assemble ;
Begins to move and tremble.”
On a sudden the clock strikes, or he looks instinctively at his watch; and lo! the dream has gone, like Cinderella's finery. The usual patient business-look comes into his face; and as he wends back to his office he gives just as rough a push as ever to a merry child that runs against him in its play; not out of brutality, but “the child has no business to be playing there.” O, sir, when you were a child had you always such regard in your gambols to the categories πότε and που ?
To go back to my own once-contemplated book of memories, of remindings for my old age. There is no such book written with pen and ink; but has my perception of these things, as I have gone on hitherto, made such a note-book of my heart ? Should I have pushed the child, or have patted his curly head, with “ Take care, my littlo fellow"?
Shall I have grown old in heart when I am old in years? Will
my age be crabbed age ? When, now and then, a hint of some feeling felt long ago, a gleam of some light that was my Sky once; when what had been a peal of mirth comes back as a sigh; shall I wish that I had held tighter those golden sands that I have let slip through my too remiss grasp ? Shall I wish to have photographed the feelings, as well as the friends, of the days that were once?
“Ah! then if mine had been the painter's hand,
To express what then I saw; and add the gleam,
The consecration and the poet's dream."
I am sure that the fire that would preserve the heart young must come down from heaven; and Religion, really lived, would keep the heart always human, always tender. But even those sincerely professing religion in their age are sometimes, nay often, crabbed to youth, to its impulses, I mean, and ardours—to its slips and falls.
When we are married and settled, and the wild leaping of love's brook has widened and deepened into a stiller river, somehow I have noticed, even in myself, we soon begin to forget the “wild pulsation" that came before the even beat. We are apt to grow sarcastic about love, to meet its ardour with a chill, to put out two fingers to meet the eager grasp of the joyful hand.
“Love took up the harp of life,
But we have grown too common-place for such extravagant, exultant, unreasonable harmony; and we must needs lay a dulling hand upon the vibrating chords. Not wisely. It is not well to check the fountain of generous feelings and fresh confidence that was simply and joyously welling up towards us. We don't stop it. It only turns away from us, probably for ever, and either runs in another more receptive channel, or steals on singing to itself underground. And when we have been snubby and chilling, we know not why, and have managed to change the fresh sunny look into a flushed, hurt one; and when this doesn't quite well bear thinking of afterward, we perhaps would fain unbend, and open the timid flower to our sunshine, that closed from our cloud. But no. We threw away the chance, and with the chance, we threw away a great hold on the young heart and mind. That chill may be forgiven, and that readily, but hardly forgotten. If the blossom ever unfold to you again, 'twill be long ere it burst open with that old confidence, if it ever can do so. It opens timidly and bit by bit—always holding itself in readiness to crumple back into its
The young are very grateful for sympathy. You may win a young fresh heart for life, by making yours a warm bank whereon it may expand; and by not checking you may win the opportunity of directing the warm impulses and excited feelings into a safe and happy channel. You may develop the unselfish and the noble element which you perceive in the delirium of youth. You may teach that earth's fair things fleet; but you need not point so much to the grave into which they must fall, as to the heaven up to which they must soar. Yea, while the iron lies red-hot before you on the anvil, you may fashion it much as you will. But not so, after you have emptied over it a pail of cold water
I am sure, if sympathy makes the young grateful, confidence should cause the same feeling in the old. I hold confidence, even from a child, to be a very precious gift, a high honour done me.
For the young heart hath perceived somewhat in me that makes it feel such confidence to be safe and well bestowed. Yea, whatever the distress or the joy confided to my ear, so it be real to the owner, though to the world it might appear laughable, I always meet it with serious attention ; at most, if needful, bringing a little good-humoured banter to bear upon it, never sneering or snubbing, at any rate. Reproof, serious advice, these may
be necessary But if gravely, kindly given, these will not shut
young confidence that was opening. If you want to do this, affect not to understand, what it is labouring to express; throw it back, mortified and baffled, on its own knowledge of its own want. This, or the least sneer, will do the business effectually.
“And he who sneers at any living hope,
Or aspiration of a human heart,
Well, I have rather rambled about the lanes than stuck to the high road of
my text. But what I have written brings us to this point. That there is a tendency, more or less strong, in Age to be crabbed with regard to Youth ; and that a severance, inward, but not the less defined, will exist between them when such is the case.
Therefore be wise, oh Age! Yea, Self that sagely preachest! keep a watch over thine own heart as the years go over thee. Don't let the bright fountain fall back, the little
don't let it become quite hidden with weeds and dead leaves. Clear them away now and then, and keep the source bright, and fresh, and clear; it will do you good to visit it sometimes. The young have much indeed to learn from the old, and they would not be averse to learn it, if advice were made more of food and less of a potion. And the old