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hears its lessons of charity as if they could be expressed in the lines of a modern poet, beginning—
"I'd make the world a palace home,
And ope its happy gates;
And mankind all in peace should roam,
The mind should drink immortal dews,
"The world should lose its caste of pride,
Sweet Joy should be the crowned queen,
And, like young stars, men should be seen,
"I'd bear a crown of fadeless flowers,
I'd weave a charm to bind the hours,
I'd give young souls eternal rest,
And teach them to be kind *!"
In fine, such old age verifies the truth of the observation that those who become acquainted with the noble pleasure of administering kindness to others find a tie which binds them to life, even if there was scarcely any other attraction to render life desirable. Now where there is a happy consciousness of using life, thus there must be affinity with a religion which identifies itself with internal joy and contentment; and we have repeatedly observed that central principles render life happy by inspiring these feelings; therefore between old age and those principles a close relationship exists, even in regard to this last attribute ; which observation can in consequence, like the preceding results, direct those who are on this road to find their own centre in that faith which alone combines all those principles in one.
The last affinity which we may distinguish as existing between old age and Catholicism consists in the effective desire which they both generate, notwithstanding the results just noticed, of a future and happier existence. It is difficult to say whether there is more pleasure or pain in memory. Both are in it so abundantly that the poor heart overflows with them. Age has not the quality of the river Lethe, to make men forget their
relations, their friends, those who were linked with them in intimate affection, those who loved them as woman only loves, and those whom they loved. One cannot wonder to hear it say of its own past youth and manhood—
"My mates were blithe and kind!
"Since I lost my brother, the bishop of Aosta," says the Count de Maistre, “I am but half alive. By degrees I am departing." What will they say who have to look back to find some still fonder being? Words are incompetent to express the thoughts and memories which move them sometimes most profoundly, though only to be recalled by relating something as insignificant as Rosseau's sleeping near Lyons in a niche of the wall after a fine summer's day, with a nightingale perched above his head. What is intimate in the thoughts and memories themselves, that which chases every other image from before it by its incomparable beauty, flashes across the mind like lightning, and is gone before they can attempt to trace in what it consists. They only can distinguish something that seems too trifling, not to say ridiculous, to mention- -some walk perhaps years ago with a beloved friend at sunset; some remark then made at the beauty of a bird or flower; some moments then spent in watching a swan, or perhaps gathering blackberries merrily in a wood, hearing together some sweet music in a garden on a summer's day. These by means of associations are visions of bliss, but of departed bliss, and such as they believe can never return for them in this world. Thus a tone of sadness steals over the mind that recollects what no longer exists here below; and this prepares it for contemplating without bitterness the passing away to a different sphere where new hopes present themselves, resting on ground that satisfied the reason of a Leibnitz and a Bossuet. Even if all could be brought back for a time, still they know there would be a time to take leave again of all. When Protesilaus asks permission to return to life for one day to see again his bride, Plutus replies to him, Εἶτα τί σε ὀνήσει μίαν ἡμέραν ἀναβιῶναι, μετ' ὀλίγον τὰ αὐτὰ ὀδυρούμενον ; The aged are drawn therefore towards what will not pass away, and towards a religion of hopes. When invited by it to advance they would fain, as poets say,—
"Reply in hope-for they are worn away,
And death and love are yet contending for their prey."
There is in fact nothing stronger or more congenial to human hearts, let them be of what kind they may, than the wish
to have these highest hopes confirmed, and to hear such words as
Æthereæ sedes, cœlumque erit exitus illi."
Besides, a sense of the brevity of all that is left of the road before them, must be favourable to those fruitful thoughts on which Catholicism so often and so securely reckons for the recovery of its children. That moral courage which is so needful sometimes for the accomplishment of its law is a natural attendant upon years. Castricius, resisting the consul Cn. Carbo to his face, when the latter urged his own power, saying that he had many swords, the other calmly replied,-et ego annos *. The Roman author calls Cæsellius periculose contumax ; for when his friends reminded him of his danger from the triumvirs, he replied, Two things which seem most bitter to men give me great liberty, namely, senectutem et orbitatem. "This life grows shorter with its increase," says St. Isidore, " and it is truly short." With the aged all continuance here of course is doubly uncertain; as Sophocles says,
σμικρὰ παλαιὰ σώματ ̓ εὐνάζει ῥοπή τ.
"Old men of your age," says Antonio de Guevara, writing to Dom Loys Bravo in his usual playful style, "ought to have a warm room and a warm house; for as there is always some screw loose in an old man, a little cold or wind entering by a chink will do more harm than passing the whole night under the canopy of heaven in youth." Moreover, the aged must generally be aware that the departure of the old is often without previous warning, and of this circumstance they have a symbol in the forest; for the foliage of the wych-elm fails suddenly. Its leaves curl up, become brown, and flutter from their spray. It seems as if it heard the stealing by of frost before any intimation of its approach is given. Such is the case frequently with old men, and they are conscious that it is. "As for me," says Chateaubriand, "I have hitherto always enjoyed robust health, but it is precisely constitutions of this sort which are the most liable to a sudden ruin. They resemble the ground on the river's bank, undermined by the fugitive wave; covered with herbs and flowers, nothing distinguishes it from other ground, when all of a sudden a sound is heard, it crumbles and falls." A sense of this uncertainty, without interfering with the calm enjoyment of life's remaining pleasures, will therefore generally familiarize the mind with those grave and effective thoughts which move men to look about for that stability in matters of religion, and for that ground of solid reasonable hope for the futurity which approaches, that the central principles of the Catholic religion yield. + Ed. Tyr.
* Val. Max. vi.
In fine, there is, in spite of all the calm delights of its declining day, a certain weariness of the present life, more or less at times incident to old age, that can easily lead men to prepare anxiously and cheerfully for entering upon another existence, by taking those precautions which calm and deliberate reason, ever conscious of its own limits, suggests and requires. The ancient poet anticipates a period when he will be resigned and willing to die.
"Elysios olim liceat cognoscere campos,
There are some thoughts incident to the experience of old age that stick upon its memory, and that it would fain discharge by dying. There is, moreover, continually a fresh recurrence of what in all ages had reconciled the old to the thought of death. On the shore opposite to Troy, near the Hellespont, at the sepulchre of Protesilaus, are elm trees said to have been planted by nymphs around his grave, which, according to Pliny, every hundred years, when they grow sufficiently high to behold Troy, wither away to death, and then again send forth fresh shoots to keep up the succession t. There are periods occurring thus in the life of man, when, on attaining to a certain elevation, and arriving within view of certain realities, he contracts secretly a distaste, or at least an inaptitude, for the present scene on which he has so long walked hand in hand with time, and withers away visibly, for all the desires of this world. When he has lived long enough to see certain vicissitudes which are of common, not to say constant, recurrence; then, like Æson,
"Jam propior leto, fessusque senilibus annis,"
he desires to behold no more until a different order of phenomena shall dawn for him.
"How long my life will last (he says) I know not;
This know, how soon soever I depart,
My wishes will before me have arrived."
Misery in an aged person's years gives every thing a tongue to question it. We need not cite for the reply commonplace instances produced by the ordinary calamities of the world; but there is a subtle and most efficacious source of detachment from life, which has played too great part in history to be passed over in silence. There is a life beautiful and free, that was known in Paradise, and yet that so readily enters into +Nat. Hist. lib. xvi. 88.
combination with the peculiar forms and colour of every successive generation, that in each age it appears to have only risen up with it for the first time, and to be the product of its particular stage of civilization; a life which, with all its charms, is nothing more or less than the simple and logical result of the very constitution of our nature, not more subject to the influence of the fall than any other, or, in fact, than reason itself, and for the continuance of which, notwithstanding the complaints of some, speaking often, without any authority, in the name of heaven, the Creator, by his universal laws, seems to have effectually made provision; there is, I say, a life, graceful and loving, in harmony with the fairest, and not the less the most rational ideal that we can form of such an existence as ours, and of such creatures as ourselves; a life, notwithstanding its equal adaptation to all classes, for it requires no balance at a banker's,— poetical, musical, and picturesque, represented in its defects and surface by those merry writers and humorous artists who paint the passing topics of the day, and the result of whose works is after all, perhaps, to teach the best wisdom, by conveying a smiling and charitable view of humanity in its minutest details; a life by no means at variance, as some would pretend, with a sense of man's noblest prerogative, the spirituality which distinguishes him from other animals, or inconsistent with any principle essential to the central wisdom, while it seems to present itself recommended by the strongest arguments from analogy, since we see that God, by his natural light, the sun, adds beauty and rich and varied colouring to the world, subject to our senses, from which fact one may fairly conclude that it must be a gratuitous piece of severity to suppose that his supernatural light is to add gloom and pale insipidity to the social and moral world, subjected to the eye of imagination and intelligence. At all events, to whatever extent, or in whatever manner it may be susceptible of explanation, definition, or indulgence, when, from a habit of rejecting every thing that does not assume a kind of formal, theological dress, answering to what is alone admitted by the præ-Raphaelite school of painters, this life is inexorably cried down, and from inability to reduce it to scientific formulas, intended for another purpose, a melancholy, stiff, disproportioned, and unnatural kind of existence, in accordance with certain conventional and inapplicable phrases, is substituted for it, the condition and mind of many persons are embittered, and the atmosphere that surrounds the old is rendered too cold and unwholesome to be long endurable. Since the epoch of the false reform, with its action and its reaction, history and biography unfold a melancholy page to convince us that what is intended for the consolation becomes, by an abuse, not unfrequently conducive to the wretchedness of man; for when it has come to such