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And now, in later years, with better grace
The change of good and evil to abide,
Thou ardent, liberal spirit! quickly feeling
Friendship in age was also a source of the
purest happiness to the poet Thomas Campbell :
TO MY NIECE, MARY CAMPBELL.
Or stop with angry jar;
No meteor-shooting star.
Shall cheer my wintry track,
A second summer back.
No dun infests our bowers;
Brows more content than ours.
May love me after death,
My lease of living breath.
A lifetime rich in truth,
Retarded by thy youth.
Thy sleep! awaken gay,
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
Where sank the sun to rest.
A streak of light is hov'ring there,
Unwilling to depart,
Breathes o'er the grateful heart.
Though summer's step of joy is filed,
Her voice of music hushid,
Her flowery chaplets crush'd;
By mercy's hand array'd,
Her eve in dove-like shade.
So when the days of joy are pass’d,
And life's enchantments o'er,
And hope is bright no more;
of woes ;
In faith he onward goes.
Then weep not o'er the hour of pain,
As those who lose their all ;
They'll prove not few nor small.
In calm, submissive love,
And looks for joys above. Dr. Johnson, like Dryden, improved as 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 I 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
That love of life increased with years,
The greatest love of life appears.
But one reason for the doctor's dislike of birthday observances
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.