At a Meeting of Friends
I remember — why, yes! God bless me! and was it so long ago?
I fear I'm growing forgetful, as old folks do, you know;
It must have been in 'forty — I would say 'thirty-nine —
We talked this matter over, I and a friend of mine.
He said, "Well now, old fellow, I'm thinking that you and I,
If we act like other people, shall be older by and by;
What though the bright blue ocean is smooth as a pond can be,
There is always a line of breakers to fringe the broadest sea.
"We're taking it mighty easy, but that is nothing strange,
For up to the age of thirty we spend our years like change;
But creeping up towards the forties, as fast as the old years fill,
And Time steps in for payment, we seem to change a bill."
"I know it," I said, "old fellow; you speak the solemn truth;
A man can't live to a hundred and likewise keep his youth;
But what if the ten years coming shall silver-streak my hair,
You know I shall then be forty; of course I shall not care.
"At forty a man grows heavy and tired of fun and noise;
Leaves dress to the five-and-twenties and love to the silly boys;
No foppish tricks at forty, no pinching of waists and toes,
But high-low shoes and flannels and good thick worsted hose."
But one fine August morning I found myself awake:
My birthday: — By Jove, I'm forty! Yes forty and no mistake!
Why, this is the very milestone, I think I used to hold,
That when a fellow had come to, a fellow would then be old!
But that is the young folks' nonsense; they're full of their foolish stuff;
A man's in his prime at forty, — I see that plain enough;
At fifty a man is wrinkled, and may be bald or gray;
I call men old at fifty, in spite of all they say.
At last comes another August with mist and rain and shine;
Its mornings are slowly counted and creep to twenty-nine,
And when on the western summits the fading light appears,
It touches with rosy fingers the last of my fifty years.
There have been both men and women whose hearts were firm and bold,
But there never was one of fifty that loved to say "I'm old;"
So any elderly person that strives to shirk his years,
Make him stand up at a table and try him by his peers.
Now here I stand at fifty, my jury gathered round;
Sprinkled with dust of silver, but not yet silver-crowned,
Ready to meet your verdict, waiting to hear it told;
Guilty of fifty summers; speak! Is the verdict old?
No! say that his hearing fails him; say that his sight grows dim;
Say that he's getting wrinkled and weak in back and limb,
Losing his wits and temper, but pleading, to make amends,
The youth of his fifty summers he finds in his twenty friends.