FROM CHILDHOOD TO OLD AGE


I am of old and young—a child as well as a man,
There was never any more youth or age than there is now.

I, a child, very old,
A traveler of thoughts and years,
Of youth long sped and middle age declining,
I have been musing over my life—connecting events, dates, as links of a chain,
Years looking backward resuming in answer to children,
My life and recitative, containing birth, youth, mid-age years,
With the fascinations of youth and the equal fascinations of age.

You lusty and graceful youth! You are great;
You are not exclusively great in youth,
Your middle age shall be great with amplitude and steadiness and fullblooded strength,
Your old age shall be equally great with majesty and bloom and fascination and 
love—the love of young and old.

Each has his care:
The young man’s ills are pride, desire, and heart-sickness,
And in his breast, the heat of passion’s fire;
Old age fears death.

Myself through every bygone phase
Through my idle youth and through middle age
—O manhood, balanced, florid and full—and old age at hand,
As the first volume of a tale perused and laid away, and this the second,
Songs, ventures, speculations, presently to close,
From ups and downs
—with intervals—from elder years, mid-age, or youth, how unfaltering, how affectionate and faithful.
What is this flooding me, childhood or manhood—and the hunger that crosses the bridge between?
No gulf ever really divides one generation from another.

An old man bending I come among new faces,
Journeyers as with companions, namely their own diverse phases,
Forth-steppers from the latent unrealized baby-days,
Journeyers gayly with their own youth,
Journeyers with their bearded and well-grain’d manhood,
Journeyers with their womanhood, ample, unsurpass’d, content,
Journeyers with their own sublime old age of manhood or womanhood.

You natural persons old and young!
What do you think has become of the young and old men,
The helpless infants, and the helpless old men and women?
One generation playing its part and passing on,
Another generation playing its part and passing on in its turn,
The new-born emerging from gates, and the dying emerging from gates,
All, all alike endear’d, grown, ungrown, young or old.
Good in all,
In the hilarity of youth,
In the strength and flush of manhood,
In the grandeur and exquisiteness of old age.

O I see life is not short, but immeasurably long,
A man is a summons and challenge,
O living always, always dying!
O the burials of me past and present,
O me, what I was for years, now dead, (I lament not, I am content.)
O to disengage myself from those corpses of me, which I turn and look at where I cast them,
To pass on, (O living! always living!) and leave the corpses behind.

NEXT: CHILDHOOD