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“I don't know why you should,” said I, “ for you seem the picture of happiness, and deserve to be so. Virgil, in the eclogue you quoted just now, must certainly have seen you and this retreat in a vision, when he wrote the lines,
* Fortunate senex, ergo tua rura manebunt ;
Et fontes sacros, frigus captabis opacum.'”* Mr. Manners nodded his head, and seemed by no means ill-pleased with the allusion.
“I know not,” said he, “if I have a right to be addressed by the epithet of Fortunatus ; but if a capability, in my old age, of enjoying such a scene as this, and being alive in a summer evening to the pleasures of sacred fountains and the cool shade, will justify the appellation, perhaps it may belong to me. The situation, prospects, hopes, and fears of an old man, particularly in reference to and comparison with youth, have not, as you may suppose, passed unexamined by me.”
“ The result," said I, “must be edifying, and much I doubt if you, at least, can justify the character of
Strict age and sour severity."" “ Thanking you for the compliment," returned he, “ I know not if that character is a fair one, for it is our own fault if we are not as happy as you ; though the happiness of youth, from the exuberance, nay, the
*'Fortunate old man, whose farm is preserved to you, and who, amidst your well-known streams and sacred fountains, enjoyest the cool shade.'
riot of its hopes, is so great, that if we had not even still richer, though not such riotous hope, there would be no sort of comparison between us. With this richer hope, I would not yield you one jot of happiness more than a healthy old man might enjoy.”
- This is very charming,” said I, “ and I quite long to be enlightened on so interesting a subject.”
“Why, it is not,” replied he, “the loss of youth, in regard to its sensual enjoyments, that forms the regrets of old age; for the latter may have quite as much positive enjoyment as the former.”
Seeing me look surprised, “ Nay, start not,” said he, "for I must tell you what perhaps you must be old before you know. Quiet, rest, and tranquillity, are quite as happy, if not happier things than excitement. It is the less and less prospect of the happiness continuing that embitters the last years of those who are quitting the world, if they have no consolation in doing so. Could a man of seventy, at ease in body and mind, look forward to fifty years more in the same condition he is in, as you young men do, (though far from being sure of it), he would be quite as happy, perhaps happier, in his arm-chair, than you in a fox chase.”
6 Rather a tame sort of happiness,” said I.
“But still happiness," answered he, “ and of the most demonstrable kind. For, let me ask you, in your late journeys on foot, how many miles did you make in a day ?”
“ Sometimes twenty.”
“And when you came to your inn of an evening, what did you do ?”
“ Nothing, for I was too tired, and sought repose.”
“Just so; and you found that the repose of doing nothing after a long journey was a great pleasure. So says Milton :
“Refreshment after toil, ease after pain."" “ I see what you mean," said I.
“I am glad of it,” replied he, “ for you now see that my arm-chair in the evening of life is as great a pleasure as your evening repose after a long day's journey. But even in youth, healthy existence that is, a tranquil enjoyment of it in the simple act of breathingis (thanks to Him who so ordained it!) positive enjoyment, and in itself enough. Besides, as I once heard one old man, an ex-cabinet minister, say to another, who was lamenting that there was nothing left in the world worth enjoying, -"You forget that we can eat our dinners and sleep on our beds.
“Of the efficiency of one of these sources you will perhaps need no conviction, after what you witnessed in me two hours ago. This I own is rather unsentimental; but add to it what I am supposing in the case, the power of meditation, reading, and agreeable conversation, and do not flatter yourself that an old man is not as happy as a young one. If he has fewer desires, he has fewer mortifications, for most innocent nature never meant
* As if her children should be riotous with her abundance.'” “ All that is beautifully true," observed I; “but
are we wrong in supposing that there are evils peculiar to old age,
"The lean and slipper'd pantaloon,
The hose, a world too wide for his shrunk sbank ?' “But I will not go on, except indeed that I recollect a denunciation of old age by Rousseau, which cannot offend you, at least, who are greatly too far off it to be affected by it.”
“O! even if I were not,” said he, “ by all means let us have it."
I hesitated a little; but, urged by him, at length repeated,
“ Vieux, on le meprise, on l'evite,
Far from taking this ill, it moved his laughter.
“And pray,” said he, “ thou representative of most immaculate and unimpeachable youth, do not the world despise and avoid empty young coxcombs, who bore you with their self-sufficient and boisterous spirits, as well as languishing old men ? Are you never in bad humour ? Have you no infirmities? no coughs, gravel, or even gout? I reject this monopoly of disease and ill-humour by age; though I grant you the other terrors are too faithfully described ; not only the shrunk shank, but the big manly voice, turning again towards childish treble pipes;' and even the 6 second childishness,'
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans every thing.'
“ Yet these last, by making us wish for death, would reconcile us to it; and even these last do not proscribe mind. These, however, are extreme cases, for seldom indeed do all these privations befal one individual, and leave him without any resources. Perhaps the resources left have even heightened enjoyments to make up for what is lost. Take my own example. God has taken away something, but has left me more, I am deaf, but I might have been blind. I cannot hear the blackbird, but I can enjoy this ample prospect, as much, or more than ever. I cannot walk twenty miles a-day, as you do; but I can sit on a bench, and, better than you (because I feel it more), feel and adore the sun.
“My gratitude for this is not only greater, as it ought to be, when I consider what I might be, but is of a more exquisite and warmer nature, and therefore makes me happier than the feelings upon it of a youth, who, seeing how common it is, looks upon it as a right. Be assured the frame of mind which old age thus generates, alone balances, nay, more than balances, all the gay carelessness of youth.
“Let me return then to that with which I set out, and which alone I hold as a set-off against youth ; I mean a healthy old age, unburthened by conscience, having honourable retrospections, and alive to mental cheerfulness. With these, an old man need envy no young one.
6 One evil there is, I grant you, and that a severe one. The loss of friends, together with the prospect