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The night preceding the birthday was, we have seen, a peculiarly solemn time with Dr. Johnson, as it has been to many others, and must always be ; especially in later life, when the night of the grave is brought so clearly before us. As it approaches, what birthday song so suitable as this :Abide with me! fast falls the eventide ; The darkness deepens ; Lord, with me abide! When other helpers fail, and comforts flee, Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me! Swift to its close ebbs out life's little day; Earth's joys grow dim, its glories pass away; Change and decay in all around I see; O Thou who changest not, abide with me! Not a brief glance I beg, a parting word; But, as Thou dwell'st with Thy disciples, Lord, Familiar, condescending, patient, free, Come, not to sojourn, but to abide, with me. Come not in terrors, as the King of kings ; But kind and good, with healing in Thy wings ! Tears for all woes, a heart for every plea ; Come, Friend of sinners, and thus bide with me! I need Thy presence every passing hour; What but Thy grace can foil the tempter's power? Who like Thyself my guide and stay can be ? Through cloud and sunshine, oh, abide with me! Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes : Shine through the gloom, and point me to the skies ; Heaven's morning breaks, and earth's vain shadows
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me!
Who can forget the death of Sir Walter Scott, at the age of sixty-one? His own lines on his King René have been applied to the close of his poetic life :
A mirthful man he was; the snows of age Fell, but they did not chill him. Gaiety, Even in life's closing, touch'd his teeming brain With such mild visions as the setting sun Raises in front of some hoar glacier, Painting the bleak ice with a thousand hues. At the age of sixty-six the inspired Milton died. The ardour of composition continued with him nearly to the last, for he wrote and published in the
year 1674, the year of his death on November 8, when “he expired without pain, and so quietly that they. who waited in his chamber were unconscious of the moment of his departure.”
On the body after death, he has himself said, -
The age of sixty-eight closed the long struggle with misfortune and neglect of Samuel Butler, author of “ Hudibras,” the wittiest satire in our language, levelled at the Commonwealth and the Puritans, on behalf of the ungrateful Stuarts, who left him to die of all but actual starvation, on the 25th of September, 1680, in Rose Street, Covent Garden. But he only shared the fate of many other devoted Royalists. The poet Otway, a year before he himself died of starvation, only five years after Butler's death, writes: Tell them how Spenser died, how Cowley mourn’d, How Butler's faith and service were return'd.
On Butler who can think without just rage,
It is needless to say that Butler's genius has been
In advanced life the learned and pious literary women of the last century especially shone. Among the many beautiful pictures of honourable age that rise before the mind we see Mrs. Trimmer, one month before her sixty-ninth birthday, seated in her favourite chair in her study, many of her children being present,with writing materials before her; when, after some little time of quiet, as if in con
templation, she drooped her head upon her bosom, as though wearied, and so, in tranquil repose, ceased to breathe.
So fades a summer cloud away,
So sinks the gale when storms are o'er,
So breaks the wave along the shore. After the age of seventy, as we draw nearer and nearer to the frozen land of extreme old age, we have still increasing need of the tender love and care of
THE GOOD SHEPHERD.
White with the drifted snow,
Our truant footsteps go :
Ever Thy wanderers keep;
Follow Thy sheep.
Do I not see Him come-
He who shall lead me home?
Unto the straining ear
Jesus is near
THE OLD MAN'S SONG.
By the course of moon or star;
follow near or far.
Strength and beauty He has given,
They are His to take away; But the heart that well has striven
Is no slave of night or day. See upon yon mountain-ridges
How the fir-woods, spread between, Reconcile the snow-clad edges
With the valley's vernal green; So the lines of
reflection You decipher on my brow Keep my age in glad connection
With the young that flourish now.
Not that now poetic fire
Can along my life-strings run, As when my Memnonian lyre
Welcomed every rising sun; Though my heart no more rejoices
In the flashes of my brain, In the freshness of your voices
Let me hear my songs again.
Did I love ?-let nature witness,
Conscious of my tears and truth. Do I love ?-oh, fatal fitness !
Still requiring youth for youth ! Yet, while thought the bliss remembers,
All delight is not gone by ; Warm your spirits o'er my embers,
Friends! and learn to love as I.
O my children! O
brothers ! If for self I lived too much, Be my pleasures now for others,
Every passion now be such.