Growing Old, a poem by Matthew Arnold, is running through my head today.
Oh, and Happy Birthday, Alice.
What is it to grow old? Is it to lose the glory of the form, The lustre of the eye? Is it for beauty to forego her wreath? Yes, but not for this alone.
Is it to feel our strength - Not our bloom only, but our strength -decay? Is it to feel each limb Grow stiffer, every function less exact, Each nerve more weakly strung?
Yes, this, and more! but not, Ah, 'tis not what in youth we dreamed 'twould be! 'Tis not to have our life Mellowed and softened as with sunset-glow, A golden day's decline!
'Tis not to see the world As from a height, with rapt prophetic eyes, And heart profoundly stirred; And weep, and feel the fulness of the past, The years that are no more!
It is to spend long days And not once feel that we were ever young. It is to add, immured In the hot prison of the present, month To month with weary pain.
It is to suffer this, And feel but half, and feebly, what we feel: Deep in our hidden heart Festers the dull remembrance of a change, But no emotion -none.
It is -last stage of all - When we are frozen up within, and quite The phantom of ourselves, To hear the world applaud the hollow ghost Which blamed the living man.