Farewells! by Richard King

Story type: Essay

When Youth bids “Good-bye” to anything, it is usually to some very tremendous thing–or at least, it seems to be tremendous in the eyes of Youth. But Age–although few people ever suspect–is always saying Farewell, not to some tremendous thing, because Age knows alas! that very few things are tremendous, but to little everyday pleasures which Youth, in the full pride of its few years, smiles at complaisantly, or ignores–for will they not repeat themselves again and again, tomorrow perhaps, certainly next year? But the “I Will” of Youth has become the “I may” of Old Age. That is why Old Age is continually saying “Farewell” secretly in its heart. Nobody hears it bid “Adieu” to the things which pass; it says “Addio” under its breath so quietly that no one ever knows: and Old Age is very, very proud. And Youth, seeing the smile by which Old Age so often hides its tears, imagines that Age can have no sadness beyond the fact of growing old. Youth is so strong, so free, so contemptuous of all restraint, so secretly uncomprehending face to face with the tears which are hastily wiped away. “For, what has Age to weep over?” it cries. “After all, it has lived its life; it has had its due share of existence. How stupid–to quarrel with the shadows when they fall!” But Old Age hearing that cry, says nothing. Youth would not understand it were it to speak a modicum of its thoughts. Besides, Old Age is fearful of ridicule; and Youth so often mistakes that fear for envy–whereas, Old Age envies Youth so little, so very, very little! Would Old Age be young again? Yes, yes, a thousand times Yes! But would Age be young again merely to grow old again? No! A hundred thousand times No! Old Age is too difficult a lesson to learn ever to repeat the process. Resignation is such a hard-won victory that there remains no strength of will, no desire to fight the battle all over again. And resignation is a victory–a victory which nothing on earth can rob us. And because it is a victory, and because the winning of it cost us so many unseen tears, so many pangs, so much unsuspected courage, it is for Age one of the most precious memories of its inner-life. No; Age envies Youth for its innocence, its vigour and its strength; for its well-nigh unshakable belief in itself, in the reality of happiness and of love: but Age envies it so little–the mere fact of being young. It knows what lies ahead of Youth, and, in that knowledge, there can be no room for envy. The Dawn has its beauty; so too has the Twilight. And night comes at length to wrap in darkness and in mystery the brightest day.

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