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And now, in later years, with better grace
Thou help'st me still to hold a welcome place
With those whom nearer neighbourhood have

The friendly cheerers of our evening shade.

The change of good and evil to abide,
As partners link'd long have we, side by side,
Our earthly journey held; and who can say
How near the end of our united way?
By nature's course not distant; sad and reft
Will she remain, the lonely pilgrim left.
If thou art taken first, who can to me
Like sister, friend, and home-companion be?
Or who, of wonted daily kindness shorn,
Shall feel such loss, or mourn as I shall mourn?
And if I should be fated first to leave

This earthly house, though gentle friends may grieve,

And he above them all so truly proved

A friend and brother, long and justly loved;
There is no living wight, of woman born,

Who then shall mourn for me as thou wilt


Thou ardent, liberal spirit! quickly feeling
The touch of sympathy and kindly dealing
With sorrow or distress, for ever sharing
The unhoarded mite, nor for to-morrow caring—
Accept, dear Agnes, on thy natal day

An unadorn'd, but not a careless lay.
Nor think this tribute to thy virtues paid
From tardy love proceeds, though long delay'd.
Words of affection, howsoe'er express'd,
The latest spoken still are deem'd the best.
Few are the measured rhymes I now may write,
These are, perhaps, the last I shall indite.

Friendship in age was also a source of the purest happiness to the poet Thomas Campbell:

Our friendship's not a stream to dry,
Or stop with angry jar;

A life-long planet in our sky-
No meteor-shooting star.
Thy playfulness and pleasant ways
Shall cheer my wintry track,
And give my old declining days
A second summer back.
Proud honesty protects our lot,
No dun infests our bowers;
Wealth's golden lamps illumine not
Brows more content than ours.

To think, too, thy remembrance fond
May love me after death,
Gives fancied happiness beyond
My lease of living breath.

Meanwhile thine intellects presage

A lifetime rich in truth,
And make me feel the advance of age
Retarded by thy youth.

Good night! propitious dreams betide
Thy sleep! awaken gay,
And we will make to-morrow glide

As cheerful as to-day.

These stanzas by Mary Landie Duncan sweetly reflect some of the softer rays of a serene evening of life.

Thin clouds are floating o'er the sky,

And in the glorious west

Lingers the rose's brilliancy,

Where sank the sun to rest.

A streak of light is hov'ring there,
Unwilling to depart,

And soft and still the wintry air
Breathes o'er the grateful heart.

Though summer's step of joy is fled,
Her voice of music hush'd,
Her shades of living verdure dead,
Her flowery chaplets crush'd;
Sweet nature still hath power to bless,
By mercy's hand array'd,

Her morn in fairy loveliness,
Her eve in dove-like shade.

So when the days of joy are pass'd,
And life's enchantments o'er,
When we have bow'd to sorrow's blast,
And hope is bright no more;
There still are mercies, full and free,
Mix'd in the cup of woes;

And where the mourner cannot see,
In faith he onward goes.

Then weep not o'er the hour of pain,
As those who lose their all;
Gather the fragments that remain,
They'll prove not few nor small.

The thankful spirit finds relief
In calm, submissive love,
Toils hopeful on amidst his grief,
And looks for joys above.

Dr. Johnson, like Dryden, improved as an author as he advanced in years, and wrote best after he had passed that period of life when many men are almost totally incapable of intellectual exertion. He greatly disliked to have his birthdays

publicly mentioned or observed. The melancholy of his temperament worked in full force on these occasions. In the year 1773 he writes :


Boswell, with some of his troublesome kindness, has informed this family (at Dunvegan Castle), and reminded me, that the 18th of September is my birthday. The return of my birthday, if I remember it, fills me with thoughts which it seems to be the general care of humanity to escape. I can now look back upon threescore and four years, in which little has been done and little has been enjoyed, a life diversified by misery, spent part in the sluggishness of penury, and part under the violence of pain, in gloomy discontent or importunate distress. But perhaps I am better than I should have been if I had been less afflicted. With this [ will try to be content."

His dislike to public birthdays sometimes betrayed itself in morose ill humour, selfish and stern, as when he refused to have a friend's chandelier lighted because it was his birthday, and suffered himself to be " plagued" because some kind ladies, unaware of his morbid aversion, wished him joy.

"I know not," observes Boswell, "why he disliked having his birthday mentioned, unless it were that it reminded him of his approaching nearer to death, of which he had a constant dread."

Mrs. Thrale might have had Dr. Johnson in her thoughts when she wrote:

The tree of deepest root is found

Least willing still to quit the ground;

"Twas therefore said by ancient sages
That love of life increased with years,

So much, that in our latter stages,
When pains grow sharp, and sickness rages,
The greatest love of life appears.

But one reason for the doctor's dislike of birthday observances may be contained in a remark made by him on another occasion :—" There is a wicked inclination in most people to suppose an old man decayed in his intellect;" hence he may not have cared to have his age paraded in mixed society. Boswell had not the tact to see this, nor the discretion to avoid wounding Dr. Johnson's keenest susceptibilities. Boswell misunderstood his friend. In 1779 we have a glimpse how the doctor spent a birthday. He writes, glad " to escape into a house where my birthday, not being known, could ..ot be mentioned, I sat up till midnight was past (on the eve of his sixty-fifth birthday), and the day of a new year—a very awful day-began. I prayed to God, who had safely brought me to the beginning of another year." At intervals throughout the day he prayed, and at night he wrote a prayer. That Dr. Johnson often spoke to himself, as well as to others, more than he meant, according to his mood at the time, we know well. His last birthday but one was social, genial, and affectionate. In a note to an intimate friend he writes:-" I purpose to be with you on Thursday before dinner. As Thursday is my birthday, I would have a little dinner got, and would have you invite Mrs. Desmoulins, Mrs. Davis that was about Mrs. Williams, and Mr. Allen and Mrs. Gardiner."

So, after all, he did not object to the celebration, so that no one was present but the few homely intimates with whom his domestic sympathies and sorrowful private memories could thoroughly unite. Nothing more endears his memory to our minds than this homely trait of heartfelt and unconventional feeling.


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