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naro, the Venetian, by following the same discipline, could, in
"Non ætate quidem senui, sed cladibus, heu, tot
Nor is it perhaps unworthy of notice that this manner of life tends even to preserve a graceful and noble exterior in the old. Nature, when its design is not baffled by some intervening accident, is, after all, beautiful even in its decline, as may be witnessed in shrubs when covered late in the year with the traveller's joy.
"Quique per autumnum percussis frigore primo
In old age the elm, in some instances, as we have already remarked, and the ash almost always, lose that grandeur and beauty which the oak preserves; but how majestic is the latter tree!
"Still clad with reliques of its trophies old,
Lifting to heaven its aged, hoary head,
Whose foot on earth hath got but feeble hold."
Some individuals of every species retain beauty to extreme old age. The cedar-tree of California, that is two thousand years old, has none of that deformity which commonly characterizes trees of a great age, but from one end to the other it is a model of symmetry. The Scotch fir, that is hideous in its youth, becomes at a very advanced age precious to every artistic eye. In the north the bark of trees is covered with lichens and mosses; in the tropical forests flowers of every colour twine round each trunk; but there is a pure white lichen, beautiful in the contrast which it presents to the coloured lichens, intermingled with it, and yet denoting that the vigour of the tree is about to fail. In
* Rose Select. Virt. p. i. c. xi. Hist. Cassinens. xi. 675.
† Corresp. ii. lett. cclxxxv. § Trist. iii. 8.
like manner there is a peculiar beauty that belongs to the aged of human kind, enduring until they wholly perish, and all their painted frailties turn to ashes. True, there is a charm that blows the first fire in us which lasts not. Time, as he passes by, puts out that sparkle. The smooth forehead, peachy cheeks, and milky neck, which once required the pencil of a Raphael to portray them, will in the decline of life demand that of a Titian or a Velasquez; but how noble and loveable may the whole, however changed, still be! It may even present an analogy with the acajou, of which the wood only grows more precious by growing old. That intelligent and amiable expression which the exercise of benevolent feelings imparts to the eyes and mouth may still be seen. It is
Et veteris retinens etiamnum pignora formæ."
It is not of necessity, then, that men grow ugly with advancing vears. "The effect of the passions," says Southey, "upon the face is more rapid and more certain than that of time." Come, let a court be opened here, and let women pronounce sentence. Mark these countenances, then, as painted by Ben Jonson and others. Is it age that makes your merchant or city face-that dull, plodding face, still looking in a direct line forward-of which he says so wittily, "There is no great matter in this face?" Is it age that makes your lawyer's face, a contracted, subtile, and intricate face, full of quirks and turnings, a labyrinthean face, now angularly, now circularly, every way aspected? Is it age that forms your statist's face, a serious, solemn, and supercilious face, full of formal and square gravity; the eye, for the most part, deeply and artificially shadowed? Is it age that makes your face of faces, your courtier theoric, a fastidious and oblique face, that looks as it went with a vice and were screwed up? Or is it age that forms the menacing, astounding face of the justice that speaks chains and shackles, "who would commit a man for taking the wall of his horse?" Look, too, at that betting, bargaining, and saving face, that rich face, fit to be pawned to the usurer; or at that hunting face to court the wind with; or at that proud face, with such a load of lord upon it; or at that sanctimonious, serious, scornful owl face, with equipage canonical, as though he had broken the heart of Bellarmine; or at that sour, prognosticating face, that passes by all flesh so negligently. What part, it may be asked, ye fair judges, had age in the formation of any of these countenances? Not the least, they will tell you; whereas, on the other hand, these very faces turn the tables against manhood and womanhood, and even youth, since it is clear from this evidence that these can wear state or business, or Pharisaic or unmeaning faces, in which the best judges, male or
female, see no attraction that they should desire much to look on them-faces in which there is not a line or expression but what denotes that each possessor should never hope to come in the same room where lovers are, and escape unbrained with one of their slippers. Every one, in fact, must have observed that there is a beauty, which, as the duchess of Newcastle said of her mother's, is "beyond the reach of time;" beauty depending upon the mind, upon the temper, which keeps even the person long attractive.
"Nor spring nor summer's beauty hath such grace
Obviously, then, a discipline like the Catholic, which preserves a just, free, calm, hopeful, and, above all, charitable mind to the highest bent of kindness and of love, must conduce to preserve external beauty.
But, in the second place, Catholicism tends to ward off the moral miseries of the old, and, in fact, the preceding results have in great part been the consequence of this latter deliverance. To begin with those mental miseries formed by regrets for the passing away of youth, and of what was loved in youth, we may observe that nothing is so calculated to alleviate or dissipate them as that manly, hopeful spirit emanating from central principles, which involve essentially that maxim, so much extolled at present, of going ahead-of looking always to the future, and of pressing forward with restless energy to some great and hitherto unattained felicity. Where central principles have influence, there is none of this morbid looking back upon the past. The future seems all in all. Full of hope and confidence, men are then ready for every thing in advance of them, though it were for what without faith to guide them would be a leap in the dark. Catholicism says ever to the old,
Bate not a jot
Of heart or hope, but still bear up and steer
In this respect the effect is the same both in regard to private and public consideration, whether we look to personal or general interests. The Count de Maistre, imagining that he foresaw the dissolution of society, writing, a few days before his death, to the Count Marcellus, used these words: "I feel that I am sinking day by day. Hic jacet! Such will soon be all that will remain to me of the goods of this world. I finish with Europe. This is departing in good company. C'est s'en aller en bonne compagnie." These, if one might venture to criticize any words of such a writer, seem perhaps to be the expressions of the man of
letters, of the statesman and politician, rather than of the Christian uttering the Catholic inspirations, which breathe confidence equally in the future, the present, and the past, as in the noble answer of Ordelia, who, when asked was there ever yet, or may there be, found any to practise wholly disinterested virtue, replies, Many dead, sir; living, I think, as many." Chateaubriand at least appears to express the latter in a manner admitting of no misconstruction, and in a passage, too, of singular beauty. "While tracing," he says, "these last words, this 16th of November, 1841, my window, which opens to the west on the gardens of the Missions étrangères, is open. It is six o'clock in the morning. I perceive the pale, broad moon; it is sinking on the spire of the Invalides, scarcely illumined by the first golden ray of the Aurora. One might say that it was the ancient world finishing, and the new commencing. I see the dawn of a morning of which I shall not see the sunrise. All that remains for me is to sit down by the side of my grave, and then, with the crucifix in my hand, I shall descend with courage into eternity." Such are the last words of his Mémoires d'outre-tombe. Truly, a noble conclusion. Thus does Catholicism inspire the old with cheerful confidence, let the times on which they are fallen or the prospects of futurity be what they may. It teaches confidence in virtue under all changes, and at the same time the folly of anachronism in the conduct of states as of individuals, and thereby induces both to accept with proper limitations the motto of Frederic of Arragon, king of Naples, which was, “Recedant vetera." If Catholicism resists a dogged but movable and bewildering spirit of innovation, it does not seem, on the other hand, to side with an equally dogged but impenetrable and immovable conservatism. It does not seek to turn men into owls. An antiquary will sacrifice the gravest interests if he can but revive any old, dark thing that, like an image in a German clock, doth move, not walk, loving it because it looks like some old ruined piece that was fabricated five ages ago. He will be as singular, too, in his revival of obsolete words to suit some whim or other as ever was the hero of Cervantes, or Ralph in the Knight of the Burning Pestle, who would call all forests and heaths deserts, and all horses palfries, substituting ycleped for named, and eke for also. But men of central principles, being necessarily opposed to foolery of every description, will exclaim, "Would you begin a work never yet attempted, to pull Time backward? Let us be thankful for that which is, and leave disputes that are beside our question. Let us go off and bear us like the time." "If those laws you speak of," says an author, who is often inspired by Catholicism, "had been delivered to us ab initio, and in their present state, there had been some reason of obeying their powers; but it is certain that in many things con
cerning which some particular age is invoked as the ultimate judge there has been a succession of changes." In building, in decoration, in vestments, in discipline, every generation in the dignity of its spirit and judgment supplied some things, and altered others with all liberty, according to the elegancy and disposition of its times. Catholicism wills not, then, but we should enjoy the same licence or free power to illustrate and heighten our invention as they did, and not be tied to those strict and regular forms which the niceness of a few, who are nothing but form, would thrust upon us. Why should we be obliged to imitate the twelfth, or the thirteenth, or the sixteenth century, rather than those times which preceded or followed them? And then to mark the stress that is laid upon some servile copying! Are not obstructions actually cast in men's way by such gratuitous demands? How durst thou treat of what concerns thy contemporaries more than life, in such an antic fashion? "I should rather hear Christ than Divine Mnemosyne," said Mabillon, alluding to the hymn of Ménage, composed in his seventysecond year. It skills not if we forget even the quantity we have forgotten, provided we attend to the voice which is for all times. Writing to the Commander Don Loys Bravo, Antonio de Guevara says, "It is better to grow weary over good books than to be occupied in thinking of past times." In every point of view old age needs to be submitted to this important lesson, for the results, when it is neglected, show but very poorly. It is said that the doctrine of the circulation of the blood, when first propounded by Harvey, was not received by any anatomist or medical man who had passed his fortieth year. Merely natural old men lament a change, though it be from ignorance to knowledge. But if such regrets are discountenanced by Catholicism, when their object is of this general nature, still more so, we may be assured, are they counteracted or removed by it when they would arise from personal views of the progress of time, and from a retrospect of one's own past youth. It is not that we are to suppose that central principles interdict the memory of past enjoyments, since in fact, so far otherwise, they teach men to take the consideration of them into their general views of human life, and to render their own hearts more apt to forgive and to love others by the knowledge of what they have themselves done or suffered. No truly, the old man may sing, in the beautiful lines by a modern poet,
"But retrospection even yet
Will lead me through past-trodden ways,
And I remember-how forget?-
All nature so divinely wrought
The unravelled mystery of things,