vision at the end of our days, we experience neglect obdurate and rude. You exclude us from your councils; we are as nothing. Is it just that a man bent under the weight of years should yield to every stripling? Old age obtains from you neither veneration nor repose."


"Oh, time of age! where's that Æneas now,
Who letting all his jewels to the flames;
Forgetting country, kindred, treasure, friends,
Fortunes and all things, save the name of son,
Hew'd out his way through blood, through fire, through arms,
Even all the arm'd streets of bright-burning Troy,
Only to save a father?"

All this is to no purpose, some will reply. We are past school, or we need no Pagan lessons read! Catholicism, meanwhile, to inculcate respect and gratitude for age, has but one voice, of which the ancient poet is an echo, saying,—

"Does the kind root bleed out his livelihood
In parent distribution to his branches,
Adorning them with all his glorious fruits,
Proud that his pride is seen when he's unseen;
And must not gratitude descend again
To comfort his old limbs in fruitless winter?
O yet in noble man reform, reform it,
And make us better than those vegetives,
Whose souls die with them *."

In fine, central principles provide for age a sweet, serene, and even glorious existence, corresponding to

"The setting sun, and music at the close
As the last taste of sweets is sweetest last."

Or, as another poet says,—

"A long summer day, whose shadow shall go down

Like the sunset in the eastern clime, that never knows a frown." When the sun is descending near the horizon, the very dust that rises from the road seems golden; and as the traveller looks forward through it the ground appears to blend into the brightness of heaven. Such is life in the aged, whom faith inspires.

"For as Apollo each eve doth devise

A new apparelling for western skies,"

so Catholicism, which leaves the varieties of natural character untouched, lends an inexhaustible change of beauty to the declining days of each old person subject to it, and makes the last

* The Old Law.

scene appear to be more lovely than the best and serenest that had been observed before. It invokes a smiling, calm, contented old age, as some great artist calls on Vesper

"To summon all the downiest clouds together
For the sun's purple couch."

Upon the whole, Catholicism, when unmixed with other influences, is found to wear well; under its fostering warmth the old can look on young men, and no way envy their delicious health, pleasure, and strength; all which were once their own, while what they experience now must one day be theirs. After serving them in youth as a beautiful lightsome holiday attire, they find nothing like it to cover them in age; it is found to become them best at every stage of their journey; it is a suit that will last them their lives, and one which, once obtained, secures them against all further want of change. The man who passes, growing old, remarks the fact, and sometimes suffers himself in consequence to be led by that observation to the centre. He perceives how few who turn from it know how to be old. He hears magnified acquiescence in mere nature. He will reply with a poet,

"There's truth in what you say;
But something whispers to my heart
That, as we downward tend,
Lycoris! life requires an art

To which our souls must bend."

That art, he concludes, can be nothing else but the acquirement of central principles in mind and conduct, such as form old men to this type of indulgent wisdom; accordingly, he studies and embraces them, and then feels his mind seated in a rich throne of endless quiet, higher than mortality, and pure as heaven.


THE ROAD OF OLD AGE (terminated).

ROM this point opens another avenue to the centre, constituted by the natural affinity between old age and Catholicism. The existence of this relationship is easily detected. In the first place, a period of life generally productive of leisure and of thought, attended in many instances with a vast variety of retrospective images, must be favourable to a recognition of the truth of


that religion which, while often powerless to persuade the busy and inconsiderate, can never be wholly removed from view of the contemplative, or separated from the historical knowledge and traditions of those who, having achieved the silver livery of advised age, are arrived at their reverence and their chair-days, and who, after paying their debt of labour, find a repose which suits them, and which God blesses-a rest which, as Lacordaire says, is at once their right and their majesty. Mark these seniors seated on the benches which sometimes are placed at the outskirts of a forest, or by the side of the road leading through it, as in that of St. Germain. You perceive how they like its shades, since they even have turned their backs to those who pass in order to have their faces directed to the wood. To prevent old age from considering and meditating when those who pass would lead it from the centre, is indeed the object of some, who like wagtails of the city, as Shirley calls them, no sooner hear the name of Rome but straight they gape as they would eat the pope-birds, however, that the old when contemplative are not inclined to make much on. But to think of banishing all thoughtfulness from those so predisposed to it, is to desire what would be unnatural.


For what is age

But the holy place of life, chapel of ease

For all men's wearied miseries? and to rob

That of her ornament it is accurst

As from a priest to steal a holy vestment *."

"Years," says Chateaubriand, " are like alps. Hardly have you passed the first when you see others rise beyond them-alas! these highest and last mountains are solitary and white." But he would admit that they are favourable to reflection, and that they yield a wide and uninterrupted prospect to supply it with abundant matter for its exercise. Dante borrows an image from those who stand on such an elevation, saying,

"So rov'd my ken, and in its general form
All paradise survey'd."

It is they who have longest observed and longest meditated, who can most easily perceive that, as he says,


All is one beam

Reflected from the summit of the first

That moves, which being hence and vigour takes +."

But memory, again, with the aged may prove a serviceable guide; since the days of youth can seldom have been left without


+ Par. 30.


fresh evidence of the truth of central principles, yielded in a personal manner with new examples of the evil of disregarding them; and therefore with especial reference to such things each old man might say,


Multaque præsens

Tempore tam longo vidi, multa auribus hausi *."

Or with Nestor,

61 Quamvis obstet mihi longa vetustas
Multaque me fugiant primis spectacula sub annis
Plura tamen memini +."

Helvius Marcia Formianus, when very old, accusing Libo before the censors, and Pompey, in disparagement of his years, saying that he had come from the dead to accuse, "You are right, Pompey," he replied, "I come from the dead to accuse Libo; but while staying with them I saw Cn. Domitius Ahenobarbus stained with blood and weeping, because nobly born, of innocent life, and a lover of his country, he had been slain in the flower of his youth by your orders. I saw the wounded Brutus, victim of your cruelty. I saw Cn. Carbo, the defender of your boyhood and of your father's goods, bound in chains by your command and slain, against all law and justice. I saw the prætorian man, Perperna, execrating your barbarity ‡." One who returns thus from the dead even in our age, however reluctant he may be to accuse, has somewhat perhaps to recount of the sufferings to which the profession of Catholicity had exposed some of the best and greatest men. Without the least disposition to blame any one, or to revive odious memories for the sake of reproaching the living, he, a modern Formianus, might say to his intimate friend, "I have seen a Douglas, a bishop, tried for his life on the charge of saying mass, and only saved by an ingenious stratagem of Mansfield, the judge,-Æmonii proceres aderant, aderamus et ipsi. I have seen London on the point of being burnt and pillaged by those who, at the voice of a fanatical nobleman invoking the Bible, accused the king of favouring popery. I have seen a little later the whole clergy of France embracing death or exile rather than take an oath opposed to Catholicism. I have seen nations pledged to wage what they proclaimed as an eternal war against it; but I have seen them," he will add, "disappointed and baffled."

"For know, that all these strict combined heads,
Which struck against this mine of diamonds,
Have proved but glassen hammers-they are broken."

Met. xiv. 8. + xii. 6.

Val. Max. lib. vi.

Dugald Stewart supposes that the decay of memory observable in old men proceeds as frequently from the very little interest they take in what is passing around them, as from any bodily decay by which their powers of mind are weakened. That interest, however, which they take in the past may conduce greatly, for reasons already suggested, to their facility of access to the centre. The Greek poet celebrates the force of memory in old age *; and Catholicism, it must be confessed, is more or less wound up with nearly all memories, whether of peace or war, of commerce or diplomacy, of law or literature, of love or of devotion. The natural impression of the aged, resulting from familiarity with the past, will be in favour of standing, so far as religious principles are concerned, on the ancient ways, and of walking in them. Standum," they will say, super semitas antiquas, et in eis ambulandum-ita sane jucundum ac suave intra castissimos sacræ vetustatis limites libere se coarctaret." If religion should have lost the favour and protection of the state and of the times, they will not lose their former attachment to it. Their faith will not diminish on that account,



[ocr errors]

But as the wild ivy

Spreads and thrives better in some piteous ruin
Of tower, or defaced temple, than it does
Planted by a new building, so will they
Make its adversity their instrument
To wind them up into a full content."

Manhood, for a while, may jeer and scoff at reverent antiquity in matters of religion, but age replies, "You but blow out a taper that would light your understanding, though you may think that it is burnt down in the socket." Shirley, ridiculing the spirit of the reformers, makes Maslin say, "Let me see, how shall I consume my wealth? I must do something to shame the chronicles. Silence! I'll build another town in every country; in midst of that a most magnificent college, to entertain men of most eminent wit, to invent new religions;" and Beaumont and Fletcher represent Pedant applying to Forobosco, a conjurer, to help him in a similar project. "I am a schoolmaster, sir," he says, "and would fain confer with you about erecting four new sects of religion at Amsterdam. I assure you I would get a great deal of money by it. It is about these four new sects I come to you; 'tis a devil of your raising must invent'em; I confess I am too weak to compass it. Let but your devil set them a-foot once, I have weavers, and gingerbread-makers, and mighty aquavitæ men, shall set them a-going." Though "the times may want religion extremely," old age will not pronounce these

*Herc. furens.

Regula Fratrum Ord. SS. Trinit.

« VorigeDoorgaan »