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Feltham has the following observations on the misery of being old and ignorant:
“Since Old Age is not only a congregation of diseases, but even a disease itself—and that, in regard of the decree which Providence hath passed upon man, incurable-save by death, the best thing next to a remedy is a diversion or an abatepent of the malady. When infirmities are grown habitual and remediless, all that we can do is to give them some respite, and a little alleviation, that we may be less sensible of the smart and sting they smite us with. The cold Corelian cannot change his clime; but yet, by furs and fires, he can preserve himself, and stove out winter, armed with ice and wind. The drum and fife can drown the battle's noise, though many times there is no room to escape it. The little emmet can instruct great man, that, winter coming, store should be provided. And what thing is there in the fathom of industrious man, that can so qualify him against the breaches and decays that age makes on him, as knowledge, as study, and meditation ? With this he can feast at home alone, and in his closet put himself into whatever company best shall please him,- with youth's vigour, age's gravity, beauty's pleasantness, with peace or war, as he likes. It abates the tediousness of decrepit age, and, by the divine rapture of contemplation, it beguiles the weariness of the pillow and chair. It makes him not unpleasing to the young, reverenced by age, and beloved of all. “A gray head, with a wise mind enriched by learning, is a treasury of grave precepts, experience, and wisdom. It is an oracle, to which the less wise resort to know their fate. He that can read and meditate, need not think the evening long, or life tedious; it is at all times employment fit for a man : like David's harp, it cures the evil spirit of this Saul, that is naturally testy, froward, and complaining. Though, perhaps, there was vivacity more than ordinary, yet I doubt not but it was this, that, in the main, from Gorgias produced that memorable answer. Being a hundred and seven years of age, one asked him, why he lived bo long? He replies, 'Because he yet found nothing in Old Age to complain of.' And this is probable, for he was master to Isocrates; bad got such wealth, by teaching rhetoric, that he bequeathed his statue in gold to Apollo's temple; and to any theme was able well to speak extempore. And certainly, if any thing hath power, it is virtue and knowledge that can ransom us from the infirmities and reproaches of age. Without this, an old man is but the lame shadow of that which once he was. They honour him too far, that say he is twice a child. There is something in children that carries a becoming prettiness, which is pleasant and of grateful relish. But igno
rant Old Age is the worst picture that time can draw of man. It is a barren vine in autumn, a leaky vessel ready to drop in pieces at every remove, a map of mental and corporeal weakness; not pleasing to others, and a burden to himself. His ignorance and imbecility condemn him to idleness; which, to the active soul, is more irksome than any employment. What can he do when strength of limbs shall fail, and the gust of pleasure, which helped him to mispend his youth, through time and languid age, shall be blunted and dull? Abroad he cannot stir, to partake the variation of the world; nor will others be fond of coming to him, when they shall find nothing but a cadaverous man, composed of diseases and complaints, that, for want of knowledge, hath not discourse to keep reason company. Like the cuckoo, he may be left to his own moultering in some hallowed cell: but since the voice of his spring is gone, which yet was all the note he had to take us with, he is now not listened after: so the bloodless tortoise, in his melancholy hole, lazeth his life away. Doubtless, were it for nothing else, even for this bis learning is to be highly valued, that it makes a man his own companion without either the charge or the cumber of company. He need neither be obliged to humour, nor engaged to flatter. He may hear his author speak as far as he likes, and leave him when he doth not speak, nor shall he be angry though he be not of his opinion. It is the guide of youth, to manhood a companion, and to Old Age a cordial and an antidote. If I die to-morrow, my life to-day will be somewhat the sweeter for knowledge. The answer was good, which Antisthenes gave, when he was asked, what fruit he had reaped of all his studies? “By them (saith he) I have learned both to live and discourse with myself.”.
The pleasures of Old Age, seem to have been fully enjoyed by Mrs. Jennings, grandmother to Mrs. Barbauld. The granddaughter penned the following beautiful lines on her death :
'Tis past-dear venerable shade, farewell!
· An Israelite indeed, and free from guile, She shew'd that age and piety could smile; Religion had her heart, her cares, her voice, 'Twas her last refuge, as her earliest choice; To holy Anna's spirit not more dear The church of Israel, and the house of pray'r; Her spreading offspring, of the fourth degree, Fill’d'her fond arnis, and clasp'd her trembling knee. Matur'd at length for some more perfect scene, Her hopes all bright, her prospects all serene, Each part of life sustain'd with equal worth, And not a wish left unfulfill'd on earth; Like a tir'd traveller with sleep oppress'd, Within her children's arms she dropt to rest! Farewell! thy cherish'd image, ever dear, Shall many a heart with pious love revere! Long, long, shall mine her honour'd mem'ry bless, Who gave the dearest blessing I possess! People in advanced life should never affect habits or manners that appear in any way extraordinary. Nothing which can have the smallest influence upon the respect and consideration in which we ought to be held, ought to be put to the hazard, when the future can no longer be reckoned ours, when we have no longer any retaliation in our power. It is to young persons alone that such sports are permitted, it is in them that they are passed over. But the old man, who seems always on the verge of settling his last accounts, ought not to authorize any doubts respecting his wisdom and judgment; qualities which should be the certain result of experience, and which are the only ornament left us by time.
Paley observes, that it is not for youth alone, that the great Parent of creation hath provided. Happiness is found with the purring cat, no less than with the playful kitten; in the arm-chair of dozing Age, as well as in either the sprightliness of the dance, or the animation of the chase. To novelty, to acuteness of sensation, to hope, to ardour of pursuit, succeeds, what is in no inconsiderable degree an equivalent for them all, “ perception of ease.” Herein is the exact difference between the young and the old. The young are not happy, but when enjoying pleasure; the old are happy, when free from pain. And this constitution suits with the degrees of animal power which they respectively possess. The vigour of youth was to be stimulated to action by impatience of rest; whilst, to the imbecility of Age, quietness and repose become positive gratifications. In one important respect the advantage is with the old. A state of ease is, gene rally speaking, more attainable than a state of pleasure. A constitution, therefore, which can enjoy ease, is preferable to that which can taste only pleasure. This same perception of ease oftentimes renders Old Age a condition of great comfort, especially when riding at its anchor after a busy or tempestuous life, It is well described by Rousseau, to be the interval of repose and enjoyment between the hurry and the end of life. How far the same cause extends to other animal natures, cannot be judged of with certainty. The appearance of satisfaction, with which most animals, as their activity subsides, seek and enjoy rest, affords reason to believe, that this source of gratification is appointed to advanced life, under all, or most, of its various forms. In the species with which we are best acquainted, namely our own, I am far, even as an observer of human life, from thinking that youth is its happiest season, much less the only happy one: as a Christian, I am willing to believe that there is a great deal of truth in the following representation given by a very pious writer, as well as excellent man, (Dr. Percival, of Manchester.) “To the intelligent and virtuous, Old Age represents a scene of tranquil enjoyments, of obedient appetites, of well regulated affections, of maturity in knowledge, and of calm preparation for immortality. In this serene and dignified state, placed as it were on the confines of two worlds, the mind of a good man reviews what is past with the complacency of an approving conscience, and looks forward with humble confidence in the mercy of God, and with devout aspirations towards bis eternal and ever-increasing favour.”
Age now advanc'd he felt a slow decay,
That robb'd his form of each commanding grace; Pass'd was the summer---pass'd th'autumnal day,
And hoary winter wither'd o'er his face! Bent was the manly form, erect and tall,
And stiff*d the limbs that match'd the bounding roe; And sunk the voice that shook the sounding hall,
And white the locks that glitter'd as the sloe! And deep the furrows of his faded cheek;
His forehead trench'd by Time's progressive plough; • Yel courteous was his air, his aspect meek,
In youth with pleasure hail'd--with rev'rence now!
The idea of a green Old Age is prettily expressed in the following lines :
His trembling hand, as 'twere by instinct, felt
The green leaf shews beneath the freezing veil! Bird. Sir Thomas Bernard, in his Comforts of Old Age, makes some curious remarks on the diminution of animal enjoyments:
“Upon this I have to observe, that different pleasures are adapted to different periods of life; so that, as one desire diminishes, another increases. We do not therefore lose, but only vary the objects of attachment; exchanging the turbulent and tyrannic passions of youth, for the milder and more sedate affections of Age. If increase of years be a check to intemperance, it is also a preservative against its unhappy effects. It does not exclude conviviality; but leaves us the delight of social intercourse, while it improves the pleasures of conversation, and diminishes the cravings of appetite. Indeed there is hardly any thing so dangerous as an inordinate love of pleasure; nor any crime, public or private, which men, abandoned to the lawless and unbridled indulgence of appetite, will not commit.-When those, who place their enjoyments merely in the gratification of their senses, describe one of their dinner-parties, their account of it refers to the turtle, venison, and burgundy, which made the entire of the entertainment: but if three or four intellectual persons, by chance, mix with the society, the narrative is changed; and the dullest eater and drinker of them all will dry out :