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For eftsoons winter gan to approach,
The biting frost nipt his stalk dead,
Central principles associated in their completest form of Catholicity can attract the old, then, by a consideration that they not only teach men to recognize the services which their age is capable of rendering, but also that they tend to ameliorate its condition in every respect, by securing for it the veneration and love of those with whom it is surrounded, and who, on seeing it, may cry," Ay, here's the ground whereon my filial faculties must build an edifice of honour or of shame to all mankind." This, again, is an instance of adherence to the ancient sentiments of humanity. 'I respect your age," says Orestes, "the sight of your grey hairs fills me with veneration, and prevents me from speaking." Pliny, even in his forest wanderings, seems to be thinking about what service he can render the old; for when treating on trees he fails not to distinguish those which, by the lightness of their wood, furnish the best staffs for aged men *. It would be very significative to remark the tender solicitude evinced towards the old, wherever Catholicity sways a people. As the oaks upon the Cap de Buch, in La Guienne, nearly surrounded by sea, are only kept alive by means of the maritime pines which shelter them; or, as stumps of white pines, which have been cut down, continue to grow, by means, as some think, of root nourishment received by the stump from a neighbouring living tree of the same species, the roots of which have become united with those of the cut tree by their having grown together; so are the old of human kind kept fresh at the heart, and often flourishing externally by the sheltering care and generous prodigality of those who have been taught and formed by the old instructions of Catholicism, long since passed into nature, and who feel it to be their holiest duty to tend and love them. How many, too, within the stricter sphere of this influence, devote themselves, like St. Mecthild, to visit and tend the aged and in
*Nat. Hist. lib. xiii. 42.
firm, even when personally unconnected with them! age," say the hermits of Camaldoli, "is a perpetual sickness, the aged must be tenderly cherished; and therefore all the fathers are exhorted in the bowels of Jesus Christ to show themselves full of regard, and humanity, and compassion for the old; and those who act otherwise are to be punished severely *.” "He who has attained the fiftieth year of profession," says Ingulph, speaking of the different classes of monks in England, "shall be called a Sempecta, and he shall have a good chamber assigned to him by the prior in the infirmary; and he shall have an attendant or servant especially appointed to wait on him, who shall receive from the abbot an allowance of provision, the same in mode and measure as is allowed for the servant of a knight in the abbot's hall. To the sempecta the prior shall every day assign a companion, as well for the instruction of the junior as for the solace of the senior; and their meals shall be supplied to them from the infirmary kitchen, according to the allowance for the sick. As to the sempecta himself, he may sit or walk, or go in or go out, according to his own will and pleasure. He may go in and out of the choir, the cloister, the refectory, the dormitory, and the other offices of the monastery, with or without a frock, how and when he pleases. Nothing unpleasant respecting the concerns of the monastery shall be talked of before him. Nobody shall vex him about any thing; but in the most perfect peace and quietness of mind he shall wait for his end f." Such was the condition of old age in the cloister. What must it have been in the kind home where central principles were ever in action, to secure as far as possible domestic tenderness? Hence, the poet of a country still greatly influenced by Catholicism says,
pour garder toujours la beauté de son âme,
Pour se remplir le cœur, riche ou pauvre, homme ou femme,
Vous avez ce qu'on peut, après Dieu, sur la terre,
Contempler de plus saint et de plus salutaire,
Beautifully does a poet, too, in a London popular journal, express the ancient sentiment in regard to age:
"I love the old, to lean beside
And pass my fingers softly o'er
* Constitut. Eremit. Camaldulensis, c. 7.
To press my glowing lips upon
"To fold the pale and feeble hand
The evening prayer was said.
"Oh! youth, thou hast so much of joy,
Then turn awhile from these away
The wasted heart-spring with a stream
"Thou treadest now a path of bloom,
But they have march'd a weary way,
Then soothe the toil-worn spirits, 'ere
"Yes, love the aged-bow before
So soon to seek beyond the sky
Aye, love them; let thy silent heart,
As pilgrims very near to Heaven,
Thoughtful and observant minds have been impressed with a painful sense of contrast when they looked around them, in the absence of central principles, and, wherever faith seemed to be eclipsed, with all the sentiments that are gathered round it, surveyed the condition of the old. Reverence once had wont to wait on age; formerly, as we have seen, the old man resembled the oak, which is not left solitary in its declining years; bright green mosses growing about its venerable roots. It is no longer generally so, where central principles have yielded to antago nistic influences. Stained with no crime, yet "that which should accompany old age-as honour, love, obedience, troops of
friends," they whose life has fallen into the sere, the yellow leaf, must not look there to have. Rooks generally cease to build their nests in aged trees which are in danger of falling before the force of winds that they have no longer sufficient strength to withstand. They forsake them; and the grove that once used to resound with their voices is silent. A similar desertion can be observed when we pass near the old persons who had only such chattering birds for their former friends and dependants. As if afraid of their company, and of being somehow compromised in their approaching end, they all, as if instinctively, fly elsewhere. The dramatic poets, who studied manners, and who lived shortly after the religious revolution of the sixteenth century, seem to entertain a very decided opinion as to its results in robbing old age of its honours. They say,
There is hardly one of these writers who does not make the same remark. Ben Jonson expresses his impressions thus,-“I cannot leave to admire the change of manners and the breeding of our youth, within the kingdom since myself was one. When I was young age was authority, and a man had then a certain reverence paid unto his years, that had none due unto his life : so much the sanctity of some prevailed for others. But now we all are fallen." Such results, indeed, were but natural, since, as we may learn, even from the interlude of Lusty Juventus written in the reign of Edward VI., many of the rising generation were New Gospellers. The old, for their tenacity in regard to the ancient religion, had been held up to ridicule on the stage, which had been made a supplement to the pulpit. In that piece, the devil is introduced lamenting the downfall of superstition, and saying,
"The olde people would beleve still in my lawes,
They will not beleve, they playnly say,
In old traditions, and made by men,
But they wyll lyve as the Scripture teacheth them."
"The father was then a foole, and the chyld a preacher."
But without recurring to the extravagances of those revolutionary times, it is evident that whenever the old sentiments of humanity involved in the central faith yield place to the spirit of
innovation in morals, the old tree of all forsaken, is a symbol of the fate which is reserved for the human sire. "Cruel son! How canst thou rip a heart that's cleft already with injuries of time?" Such complaints are not then fantastic. The psalmist pronounced blessed the man whose many children enabled him to meet his enemies at his gate without being confounded; but perhaps then it is when these very children come to it that the old man has greatest cause to feel overwhelmed, and to tremble. "You no longer respect the old,” says a senator addressing his countrymen at an epoch when society seemed to abandon generally the Christian faith; "their words," he adds, "are lost upon you. This, you scornfully reply, is a brave world when a man should be selling land, and not be learning manners." Lands and houses at least obtain no exemption now from having belonged to a father. A friend of the stranger, the learned and accomplished Count de l'Escalopier, possesses the house in the Place-Royale at Paris, which has descended to him from father to son since the year 1612. But these were sons who used to remain standing while their aged parents spoke to them. "In the time of my youth," says another eminent philosopher of the same nation, "old age was a dignity, now it is a burden. Old persons formerly were less unhappy and less isolated than now. If they had lost their friends, little else had changed round them. They were not strangers to society. At present, one belated in the world has not only seen die men, but ideas. Principles, manners, tastes, pleasures, pains, sentiments—nothing resembles what he has known." That some ideas, some laws, some manners, some pleasures and tastes should change would cause regret to no wise old men ; but what they will justly deplore, as a consequence of renouncing central principles, is the passing away of old virtues that are indispensable to the peace of their own condition, and to the goodness of those who are connected with them. Yes, there are inhuman whisperings now in many houses of the rich. Sons may not consult astrologers, as in the days of Juvenal, to ascertain how much longer parents are likely to be a burden to them. There may not be a statute, as in Epirus, favouring unnatural heirs, which declares that every man living to fourscore years, and woman to threescore, shall then be cut off as useless to the republic, and that law shall finish what nature lingered at; but complaints are not less heard which recall what was represented by the dramatist of a corrupt age in England :
"O lad, here's a spring for young plants to flourish !
They who are old may say with the Greek poet, “We bring an accusation against this state, for instead of tenderness and pro