Lord, now let you your servant depart in peace, according to your word:…
If any are entitled to a peaceful departure, it is those who, like the aged Simeon, have passed through not only the springtime and summer of life, but also through its autumn and winter. To few is it given to do this. For most of us, life closes before old age brings its burdens, its sorrows, or its triumphs. Stern, indeed, is the task which old age imposes upon those who enter her service. The departure of one friend after another, till all the companions of earlier and later years have disappeared, and one belongs to a generation not his own; the gradual failure of the faculties in which have lain the joy and pride of life; the conscious enfeebling of mind and body alike; the defeat, and often the entire reversal, of all one's dreams for the progress and happiness of the race; and the adoption by the world of manners and fashions repugnant to every instinct in which one has been reared, — what trial has youth or manhood to compare with these? All the more beautiful is it, then, when the approach of old age, far from chilling heart or soul, touches life with a more radiant light than had belonged to it before, and brings the powers to a certain dignified maturity; reminding one of the lingering days of Indian summer, when, just as we have ceased to look for sunny skies, and are prepared for November's chilly air, and have bade farewell to the last of the roadside flowers, a soft and dreamy haze falls upon the landscape, coming as if from another clime, and bringing with it a loveliness with which spring and summer can hardly vie. Sometimes, old age seems to loss its withering touch entirely, and, instead of blighting, to bring the intellectual powers to their highest vigour. The wisdom of experience, the deepening insight, into truth, ant stronger habits of independent judgment come to aid the mind or will and make them capable of their best work. It brings often a beautiful spirit of tolerance. Through many years of waiting and watching, they have learned the lesson, not of despair, but of hope. They have discovered that human systems are transient, the eternal truth and right abiding. The activity of younger minds, instead of awakening jealousy or discontent, moves their admiration, as the poor cripple or worn invalid looks admiringly upon the agile movements of children at their play, and marvels with longing, yet with pride, at his companion's prodigal activity. The years, as they have passed, have taught them charity of judgment and confidence in men's nobler motives. Youth, as we know, is almost of necessity one-sided and limited in its judgments, and liable to bitter prejudices. Again, old age brings not only tolerance and breadth: it brings also, at times, in its rarer manifestations, a vivid and living interest in passing events, which more than makes up for the forced inactivity which age imposes. If they cannot themselves share in the world's activity, they rejoice that others should. Removed from the toil and scenes they love, they find their compensation in living in the efforts and experiences of younger souls, whose life is still before them. No hearts so young, no hopes so immature, but their sympathies are enlisted for them. Men marvel at their cheerfulness and unfailing animation, little knowing that they have learned the secret of perpetual youth. Where the affections are fresh and the sympathies warm and comprehensive, old age may touch the head with frost and leave furrows upon the brow, but it cannot reach the heart. Again, age seems to bring to those who know how to meet it a more serene and undisturbed happiness than belongs to any other period of life. Happy old age, I suppose, is that which has accumulated resources during its active years sufficient for its years of inaction. It has a full mind. It has thronging memories of a busy past. It has the remembrance of eager and serious effort while effort was possible. It has mental as well as physical faculties which bear witness of thorough use, and which have earned for themselves the right to repose. It has vital sympathies enlisted so long in great interests as feel still the glow of their old enthusiasms. Then come the composure, the peace, the dignity, which often make old age so winning and attractive. The din of life is far away. Its rancours and enmities have lost their sting. What dignity and grace it lends to the home! How much more, even in its infirmities, it adds to the life around it than it can possibly receive from it; not simply through whatever is venerable in its aspect or demeanour, but rather through the gentle bearing and tender sentiment which it calls into being, and without which our lives would be bare and rude indeed I What can be a better training for childhood than to grow up by the side of venerable forms, whom all are treating with honour and respect? What more refining influence, as one advances in years, than the tender solicitude, the loving care, the gentle deference, which it is the privilege of youth to offer to age? If age would be weary and solitary without youth at its side, youth would certainly be raw and uncouth without the softening presence of age.
(E. H. Hall.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: