Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Paeans to growing old

It is easy to pay tribute to youth and beauty, to "splendor in the grass " and " glory in the flower."

But how does one romanticize their loss?

Here are a few paeans I found in literature:

As a white candle in a holy place
So is the beauty of an aged face.

- Joseph Campbell

Do not go gentle into the good night
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

- Dylan Thomas

As I grow older and older
And totter towards the tomb
I find that I care less and less
Who goes to bed with whom.

- Dorothy Sayers

Reminiscences make one feel so deliciously aged and sad.

- George Bernard Shaw

And of course, my favorite:

Though nothing can bring back the hour of splendor in the grass, glory in the flower
We shall grieve not, rather find strength in what remains behind.

In the primal sympathy which having been must ever be;
In the soothing thoughts that spring out of human suffering.
In the faith that looks through death, in years that bring the philosophic mind.

- William Wordsworth

Those are supposed to make us feel good about aging? -- you might ask doubtfully, if not indignantly. Well, would it be better if we laughed about it?! Much has been written in good humor on the downside to growing old.

Hope I die before I get old.

- Pete Townsend

You will recognize, my boy, the first sign of old age. It is when you go out into the streets of London and realize for the first time how young the policemen look.

- Sir Seymour Hicks

Old age is the most unexpected of all things that happen to a man.

- Leon Trotsky

I grow old, I grow old ..
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

- T. S. Eliot

Perhaps being old is having lighted rooms inside your head
And people in them, acting
People you know, yet can't quite name.

- Philip Larkin

Growing old is like being penalized for a crime you haven't committed.

- Anthony Powell

An aged man is but a paltry thing
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress.

- W. B. Yeats

Are you laughing now? Is it a shallow kind of laughter? Forced? Baleful? Wait ... do you know that love and growing old can still be whispered in the same breath?

Here's a bitter-sweet testimonial from Yeats.

When you are old and grey and full of sleep
And nodding by the fire, take down this book
And slowly read and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and their shadows deep.

How many loved your moments of glad grace
And loved your beauty with love false or true
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face
And bending down beside the glowing bars
Murmur, a little sad, "From us fled Love.
He paced upon the mountains far above
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

- W. B. Yeats

Would you know of other quotes about aging? Funny? solemn? somewhere in between? It doesn't matter. Share!!


Anonymous said...

Nothing's funny. It's all a bit sad.

I have something to contribute -- also sad:

It's by Helen Reddy: Yes, I am wise but it's a wisdom full of pain. Yes, I paid the price but look how much I am gained. I am wise, I'm invincible. I am woman. I am ..... (old).

- Missy

Danding said...

AM, I don't like your blogs. You keep thinking of growing old. Why don't you go second-childhood like me?


annamanila said...

ET, you wouldn't be ET if you didnt wise-crack. :) I know you liked 'em. Hehe Thanks for what you attached -- almost fell off my chair.

Frederick said...

This is true for me, though not for you!

I am a very foolish, fond old man,
Fourscore and upward, not an hour more or less;
And, to deal plainly,
I fear I am not in my perfect mind.

So you've a long way to go.

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