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into life, than enlist themselves under guides who have lost their way?
There are, indeed, many truths which time necessarily and certainly teaches, and which might, by those who have learned them from experience, be communicated to their successors at a cheaper rate: but dictates, though liberally enough bestowed, are generally without effect,--the teacher gains few proselytes by instruction which his own behaviour contradicts; and young men miss the benefit of counsel, because they are not very ready to believe that those who fall below them in practice, can much excel them in theory
Severity and censoriousness, that make no allowance for the failings of early life-that expect artfulness from childhood, and constancy from youth--that are peremptory in every command, and inexorable in every failure-must ultimately wean the affection of the rising generation from their superiors in age. There are many who live merely to hinder happiness, and whose descendants can only tell of long life, that it produces suspicion, malignity, peevishness, and persecution; and yet even these tyrants can talk of the ingratitude of Age, curse their heirs for impatience, and wonder that young men cannot take pleasure in their father's company. He that would pass the latter part of his life with decency and honour, must, when he is young, consider that he shall one day be old ; and remember, when he is old, that he has once been young. In youth, he must lay up knowledge for his support when the powers of acting shall forsake him; and in age, forbear to animadvert with rigour on faults which experience only can correct.
Youth is sweet with many a joy,
That frolics by in artless measure ;
In tranquil thought and silent pleasure !
With ev'ry charm His gift adorning,
And dress'd in smiles the blush of morning.
Baron Knigge remarks, that it is not uncommon in our days to see children neglect their parents, or even treat them ill. The principal ties of human society grow more lax every day; young men think that their fathers are not wise, entertaining, and enlightened enough, and girls yawn in the company of their hoary mother, not reflecting how many tedious hours their parent spent at their cradle—in attending and nurs. ing them when stretched on the sick bed, and in performing the most disagreeable and offensive labours, to render them comfortable, or to ease their pains; and how many pleasures she denied herself, to take care of the little helpless delicate being, who, without her tender attendance, perhaps would have perished. Children forget but too often how many cheerful hours they have imbittered to their parents by their stunning clamour; how many sleepless nights they have caused to their careful father in his anxiety to provide for his family, and how many comforts he has denied himself for their benefit. Well-disposed minds, however, will never be so totally devoid of gratitude as to be in want of my advice, and for mean and unfeeling souls I have nothing to say. It is only necessary to observe, that if children really should have reason to be ashamed of the weakness or the vices of their parents, they will do much better to conceal their defects as much as possible, than to neglect paying them that external regard which they owe them in many respects. The blessings of Heaven, and the approbation of all good men, are the certain rewards of the attention which sons and daughters pay to the comfort and happiness of their parents. It is a great misfortune to a child, to be tempted by the discord in which his parents live, or by other causes, to take the part of one against the other. Prudent parents, however, will carefully avoid involving their children in such altercations, and on such occasions good children will behave with that circumspection and tenderness which probity and prudence require
But many sensations which nature has impressed on the soul, are reasoned away in our enlightened age,
which is said to be exempt from the rubbish of antiquated prejudices. One of these prejudices is the sense of regard for hoary age. Our youth ripen sooner, grow sooner wise and learned than those of former times. They repair, by diligent reading, particularly of magazines, pamphlets, and novels, their want of experience and study. This renders them so intelligent as to be able to decide upon subjects which our forefathers thought could only be comprehended after a close and studious application of many years. Thence arises that noble self-sufficiency and confidence which inferior geniuses mistake for impudence and arrogance,—that consciousness of internal worth with which the beardless Loys of our age look down upon old men, and decry every thing that happens to come in their way. The utmost that a man of riper years may expect now-a-days from his children and grand-children is, kind indulgence, chastising censure, being tutored by them and pitied, because he is so unfortunate as not to have been born in our happy age, when wisdom rains from heaven like the manna in the desert.
There are many things in this world which can be learnt only by experience; there are sciences which absolutely require close and long study, reiterated reflection and meditation, coolness in temper and mature judgment; and therefore I think the most brilliant and acute genius, in most cases, ought to pay some attention and deference to an old man, whose inferiority of faculty is compensated by age and ex perience. It must be acknowledged in general, that the store of experience which a man gathers in a long course of years, enables him to fix his ideas, to awaken from dreams of fancy, to resist the sallies of a mere imaginative brilliancy, the warmth of blood, and irritability of nerves, and to behold the objects with which he is surrounded in their proper point of view. It is, besides, so amiable to render the latter days of the pilgrim, in which cares and sorrows generally increase, and enjoyment takes its flight, as easy as possible to those that are so soon to bid farewell to the gratifications of this world, that I feel myself impelled to exclaim with additional energy to youth of every description—"Rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old. Court the society of old and experienced people! Do not despise the counsel of cool reason, nor the advice of experience. Treat the hoary as you wish to be treated when your hair shall be bleached by Old Age. Respect them, and do not desert them, when wild and thoughtless youths shun their company.
As for the rest, it cannot be denied that there are many old fools, as there are also many wise young men, who have reaped the barvest which others scarcely have begun to sow.
Old people are very rarely so just as to put themselves in the place of younger persons: they reflect not on their own juvenile years, and thus most unreasonably expect that young men should be as sedate, sober, and reflecting as themselves; that they should shew, in fact, the same coolness, moderation, and prudence which experience, or rather the change that nature has produced in their temper, enables them to display. Juvenile sports appear unimportant to them, and the gambols of youth are considered thoughtless or wanton. Oh! let us remain young as long as possible; and when the winter of life bleaches our hair, when the blood creeps slower through our veins, and our heart grows cooler, look down with sympathetic pleasure upon our younger brethren, who are gathering vernal roses, while we are seated by the cheerful fire-side, at rest from the toils and disturbances of life. Let us not deny, by frigid severity, the sweet pleasures of youthful fancy! When we look back upon those happy days, in which a single smile from the enchanting virgin, who now is a withering matron, enraptured us with heavenly bliss; in which music and dancing thrilled every nerve of our frame with pleasure; in which merriment, and the sallies of wit, dispelled every gloomy thought, and sweet dreams of future felicity, pleasing bodings, and rosy hopes, cheered our existence; let us endeavour to prolong that happy period to our children, and participate as much as possible in their juvenile raptures, Infants and children, youths and maidens, will then crowd around the cheerful old man who encourages their innocent mirth. “When a young man, (says Baron Knigge,) I was connected with such amiable old ladies, whose society, had it been in my option, I would have preferred, on the journey through life, to that of many a handsome and blooming girl ; and when I chanced to be seated at a convivial feast by the side of a dull beauty, I frequently envied the man who was placed near a cheerful old woman.”
By recommending such a good-natured condescension to the disposition of youth, I, however, do not mean to infer, that an old man can be excused if he forget his dignity so far as to act the contemptible part of a gay fop, or a professed merry-maker; or that it is becoming a woman, who has nearly completed balfą century, to dress like a young girl, to practise the despicable arts of coquetry, or to rival the younger part of her sex in their amorous conquests. Such a breach of decorum produces contempt, and justly deserves it. People of a certain age ought never to give an opportunity to youth of ridiculing them, or of waving that regard to which they are entitled by their riper years.
It is, however, not sufficient that the society of old people be not burdensome and offensive to youth; it ought also to be useful to them. A greater share of experience obliges the former to instruct and to guide the latter, and to lead them in the path of virtue and happiness by their advice and example. This, however, must be done without pedantry, pride, and presumption; without a ridiculous predilection for every thing that is old; without demanding a sacrifice of all juvenile pleasures; without intruding, or creating tedi
I rather would advise old people to let their society be courted, which undoubtedly will be the case; because well-disposed youths are wont to think it an honour to be permitted to converse with cheerful and sensible old men; and the society of such as shew that they have seen and experienced a great deal, has always sufficient charms.