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Poems About Aging

Table of Contents

  1. The Last Leaf by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
  2. Burglar Time by Anonymous
  3. It Is Not Always May by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  4. Loss of Friends by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  5. Sundown by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  6. The Iron Gage by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
  7. The Old Man Dreams by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
  8. Memories by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  9. Oft in the stilly night by Thomas Moore
  10. On Age by Benjamin Hine
  11. A Cheerless Dawn by Anonymous
  12. Petals by Amos Russel Wells
  13. Growing Gray by Austin Dobson
  14. The One White Hair by Walter Savage Landor
  1. Ballade of Middle Age by Andrew Lang
  2. Middle Age by Rudolph Chambers Lehmann
  3. To Critics by Walter Learned
  4. Leavetaking by William Watson
  5. Equinocitial by Adeline D. T. Whitney
  6. Days of My Youth by St. George Tucker
  7. To Youth by Walter Savage Landor
  8. Ave Atque Vale by Rosamund Marriott Watson
  9. That Time of Year by William Shakespeare
  10. The Old Sailor by Margaret E. Sangster
  11. But One by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
  12. The Songs of Summer by Mathilde Blind
  13. Growing Old by Matthew Arnold
  14. Autumn by Ed Blair
  15. November by Samuel Longfellow
  16. December Days by Caleb Prentiss
  17. The Willow by Georgia Douglas Johnson
  18. Withered Leaves by Peter Burn
  19. Autumn Thoughts by John Greenleaf Whittier

  1. The Last Leaf

    And if I should live to be
    The last leaf upon the tree
    In the spring,
    Let them smile, as I do now,
    At the old forsaken bough
    Where I cling.

    – Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
    The Last Leaf
    by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

    I saw him once before,
    As he passed by the door,
    And again
    The pavement stones resound,
    As he totters o'er the ground
    With his cane.

    They say that in his prime,
    Ere the pruning-knife of Time
    Cut him down,
    Not a better man was found
    By the Crier on his round
    Through the town.

    But now he walks the streets,
    And he looks at all he meets
    Sad and wan,
    And he shakes his feeble head,
    That it seems as if he said,
    "They are gone!"

    The mossy marbles rest
    On the lips that he has prest
    In their bloom,
    And the names he loved to hear
    Have been carved for many a year
    On the tomb.

    My grandmamma has said—
    Poor old lady, she is dead
    Long ago—
    That he had a Roman nose,
    And his cheek was like a rose
    In the snow;

    But now his nose is thin,
    And it rests upon his chin
    Like a staff,
    And a crook is in his back,
    And a melancholy crack
    In his laugh.

    I know it is a sin
    For me to sit and grin
    At him here;
    But the old three-cornered hat,
    And the breeches, and all that,
    Are so queer!

    And if I should live to be
    The last leaf upon the tree
    In the spring,
    Let them smile, as I do now,
    At the old forsaken bough
    Where I cling.

  2. Burglar Time

    by Amos Russel Wells

    Time's a burglar. On his toes
    Noiselessly the rascal goes;
    Steals my hair, and in its place
    Drops long wrinkles on my face;
    Steals my vigor, and instead
    With experience crams my head;
    Steals the trustfulness of youth,
    Changing it for bitter truth;

    Steals my friends by slow degrees,
    Leaving only memories;
    Steals my hope, my daring bold,
    Leaving nought but yellow gold,
    Making these exchanges, he
    Deems it is no robbery;
    Yes, and truly; for his stealth
    Of my dear departed wealth
    Yet has left the Joy of Life,
    You, my daughter and my wife!

  3. It Is Not Always May

    by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

    No hay pajaros en los nidos de antano.
    - Spanish Proverb

    The sun is bright,—the air is clear,
    The darting swallows soar and sing.
    And from the stately elms I hear
    The bluebird prophesying Spring.
    So blue yon winding river flows,
    It seems an outlet from the sky,
    Where waiting till the west-wind blows,
    The freighted clouds at anchor lie.
    All things are new;—the buds, the leaves,
    That gild the elm-tree's nodding crest,
    And even the nest beneath the eaves;—
    There are no birds in last year's nest!
    All things rejoice in youth and love,
    The fulness of their first delight!
    And learn from the soft heavens above
    The melting tenderness of night.

    Maiden, that read'st this simple rhyme,
    Enjoy thy youth, it will not stay;
    Enjoy the fragrance of thy prime,
    For oh, it is not always May!
    Enjoy the Spring of Love and Youth,
    To some good angel leave the rest;
    For Time will teach thee soon the truth,
    There are no birds in last year's nest!

  4. Loss of Friends

    by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

    Oh, where are the friends of my youth,
    Of my manhood, ah, where are they gone?
    Down, down to the silent tomb,
    And I am left here to mourn.

    How one after one they departed,
    Till parents, brothers, sisters, were gone,
    Connections the nearest and dearest,
    While I am left here to mourn.

    Besides those, how many loved names,
    From the circle of my friends have been torn,—
    The companions of life's social way,
    Whose loss I am left to mourn.

    How oft have I followed them along,
    Or helped bear them on to that bourne,
    Where I must make one of their number soon,
    And then I shall cease to mourn.

  5. Sundown

    by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

    The summer sun is sinking low;
    Only the tree-tops redden and glow:
    Only the weathercock on the spire
    Of the neighboring church is a flame of fire;
    All is in shadow below.

    O beautiful, awful summer day,
    What hast thou given, what taken away?
    Life and death, and love and hate,
    Homes made happy or desolate,
    Hearts made sad or gay!

    On the road of life one mile-stone more!
    In the book of life one leaf turned o'er!
    Like a red seal is the setting sun
    On the good and the evil men have done,—
    Naught can to-day restore!

  6. The Iron Gage

    by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

    Where is this patriarch you are kindly greeting?
    Not unfamiliar to my ear his name,
    Nor yet unknown to many a joyous meeting
    In days long vanished,— is he still the same,

    Or changed by years, forgotten and forgetting,
    Dull-eared, dim-sighted, slow of speech and thought,
    Still o'er the sad, degenerate present fretting,
    Where all goes wrong, and nothing as it ought?

    Old age, the graybeard! Well, indeed, I know him,—
    Shrunk, tottering, bent, of aches and ills the prey;
    In sermon, story, fable, picture, poem,
    Oft have I met him from my earliest day:

    In my old Aesop, toiling with his bundle,—
    His load of sticks,— politely asking Death,
    Who comes when called for,— would he lug or trundle
    His fagot for him?— he was scant of breath.

    And sad "Ecclesiastes, or the Preacher,"—
    Has he not stamped tbe image on my soul,
    In that last chapter, where the worn-out Teacher
    Sighs o'er the loosened cord, the broken bowl?

    Yes, long, indeed, I've known him at a distance,
    And now my lifted door-latch shows him here;
    I take his shrivelled hand without resistance,
    And find him smiling as his step draws near.

    What though of gilded baubles he bereaves us,
    Dear to the heart of youth, to manhood's prime;
    Think of the calm he brings, the wealth he leaves us,
    The hoarded spoils, the legacies of time!

    Altars once flaming, still with incense fragrant,
    Passion's uneasy nurslings rocked asleep,
    Hope's anchor faster, wild desire less vagrant,
    Life's flow less noisy, but the stream how deep!

    Still as the silver cord gets worn and slender,
    Its lightened task-work tugs with lessening strain,
    Hands get more helpful, voices, grown more tender,
    Soothe with their softened tones the slumberous brain.

    Youth longs and manhood strives, but age remembers,
    Sits by the raked-up ashes of the past,
    Spreads its thin hands above the whitening embers
    That warm its creeping life-blood till the last.

    Dear to its heart is every loving token
    That comes unbidden era its pulse grows cold,
    Ere the last lingering ties of life are broken,
    Its labors ended and its story told.

    Ah, while around us rosy youth rejoices,
    For us the sorrow-laden breezes sigh,
    And through the chorus of its jocund voices
    Throbs the sharp note of misery's hopeless cry.

    As on the gauzy wings of fancy flying
    From some far orb I track our watery sphere,
    Home of the struggling, suffering, doubting, dying,
    The silvered globule seems a glistening tear.

    But Nature lends her mirror of illusion
    To win from saddening scenes our age-dimmed eyes,
    And misty day-dreams blend in sweet confusion
    The wintry landscape and the summer skies.

    So when the iron portal shuts behind us,
    And life forgets us in its noise and whirl,
    Visions that shunned the glaring noonday find us,
    And glimmering starlight shows the gates of pearl.

    I come not here your morning hour to sadden,
    A limping pilgrim, leaning on his staff,—
    I, who have never deemed it sin to gladden
    This vale of sorrows with a wholesome laugh.

    If word of mine another's gloom has brightened,
    Through my dumb lips the heaven-sent message came;
    If hand of mine another's task has lightened,
    It felt the guidance that it dares not claim.

    But, O my gentle sisters, O my brothers,
    These thick-sown snow-flakes hint of toil's release;
    These feebler pulses bid me leave to others
    The tasks once welcome; evening asks for peace.

    Time claims his tribute; silence now golden;
    Let me not vex the too long suffering lyre;
    Though to your love untiring still beholden,
    The curfew tells me— cover up the fire.

    And now with grateful smile and accents cheerful,
    And warmer heart than look or word can tell,
    In simplest phrase— these traitorous eyes are tearful—
    Thanks, Brothers, Sisters,— Children,— and farewell!

  7. The Old Man Dreams

    by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

    Oh for one hour of youthful joy!
    Give back my twentieth spring!
    I'd rather laugh, a bright-haired boy,
    Than reign, a gray-beard king.

    Off with the spoils of wrinkled age!
    Away with Learning's crown!
    Tear out life's Wisdom-written page,
    And dash its trophies down!

    One moment let my life-blood stream
    From boyhood's fount of flame!
    Give me one giddy, reeling dream
    Of life all love and fame!

    . . . . .

    My listening angel heard the prayer,
    And, calmly smiling, said,
    "If I but touch thy silvered hair
    Thy hasty wish hath sped.

    "But is there nothing in thy track,
    To bid thee fondly stay,
    While the swift seasons hurry back
    To find the wished-for day?"

    "Ah, truest soul of womankind!
    Without thee what were life?
    One bliss I cannot leave behind:
    I'll take— my— precious— wife!"

    The angel took a sapphire pen
    And wrote in rainbow dew,
    The man would be a boy again,
    And be a husband too!

    "And is there nothing yet unsaid,
    Before the change appears?
    Remember, all their gifts have fled
    With those dissolving years."

    "Why, yes;" for memory would recall
    My fond paternal joys;
    "I could not bear to leave them all—
    I'll take— my— girl— and— boys."

    The smiling angel dropped his pen,--
    "Why, this will never do;
    The man would be a boy again,
    And be a father too!"

    . . . . .

    And so I laughed,— my laughter woke
    The household with its noise,—
    And wrote my dream, when morning broke,
    To please the gray-haired boys.

  8. Memories

    by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

    Oft I remember those whom I have known
    In other days, to whom my heart was led
    As by a magnet, and who are not dead,
    But absent, and their memories overgrown
    With other thoughts and troubles of my own,
    As graves with grasses are, and at their head
    The stone with moss and lichens so o'erspread,
    Nothing is legible but the name alone.
    And is it so with them? After long years,
    Do they remember me in the same way,
    And is the memory pleasant as to me?
    I fear to ask; yet wherefore are my fears?
    Pleasures, like flowers, may wither and decay,
    And yet the root perennial may be.

  9. Oft in the stilly night

    Thomas Moore

    Oft in the stilly night
    Ere slumber's chain has bound me,
    Fond memory brings the light
    Of other days around me:
    The smiles, the tears
    Of boyhood's years,
    The words of love then spoken;
    The eyes that shone,
    Now dimmed and gone,
    The cheerful hearts now broken!
    Thus in the stilly night
    Ere slumber's chain has bound me,
    Sad memory brings the light
    Of other days around me.

    When I remember all
    The friends so linked together
    I've seen around me fall
    Like leaves in wintry weather,
    I feel like one
    Who treads alone
    Some banquet hall deserted,
    Whose lights are fled
    Whose garlands dead,
    And all but he departed.
    Thus in the stilly night
    Ere slumber's chain has bound me,
    Sad memory brings the light
    Of other days around me.

  10. On Age

    by Benjamin Hine

    What has decrepid age to fear from death,
    Or hope from life, should Heaven prolong our breath?
    Nothing on either hand; death ends that pain
    Which living age shall hope to shun in vain.
    The longer we journey on in life's lone way,
    The sharper our sufferings grow from day to day,
    Our youthful spirits dry, and joys all fled,
    Tedious and tiresome is the path we tread;
    Nor hope remains from aught the earth can give;
    Age lives by halves, or only seems to live.

    Not so with youth,— a thousand charms invite,
    Their sprightly steps, their fondest loves unite;
    The world's before them, hope is on their side;
    Their bark sails with, and not against the tide.
    Just the reverse with age; life's ebbing tide.
    Nor briskly flows along, nor smoothly glides,
    But loitering slowly through the obstructed veins,
    Each limb, each nerve, must feel a thousand pains,
    Diseases lurk through all the shattered frame,
    And aches untold, the muse could never name,
    Are daily felt, nor hope from earth remains;—
    The grave's the only refuge from our pains.
    Thence then this dread of death, even in age,
    When life's exhausted to its latest page,
    And nothing but its baleful dregs are left,
    Of every comfort, every joy bereft?
    Oh, death, thou king of terrors, how we dread
    Thy cold embrace, thy gloomy courts to tread,
    Where darkness broods, and night perpetual reigns;
    How nature shudders at thy icy chains?
    And why? because frail nature sees no light,
    Beyond the tomb no end to death's dark night.
    Here reason fails farther her way to trace,—
    Dread annihilation stares us in the face.
    And is there then no hope, no cheering ray,
    No promised rescue from death's wretched sway;
    No light before the soul, no lurid dawn,
    No sweet, no blissful resurrection morn.
    Yes, there is light, a ray shot down from Heaven
    To cheer the soul by God in mercy given.
    Religion bursts the gloom, and points the way,
    To an hereafter, an eternal day.
    Come then, blest Power come with thy healing art,
    Pour all thy balm to soothe the aged heart;
    Bring comfort with thee, and salvation bring,
    From sin, and draw from death his torturing sting.

  11. A Cheerless Dawn

    by Anonymous

    Prone in the prison of a lonely night,
    At last the darkness quivers to my sight;
    The Sheriff Sun has come to give release,
    And far before him throws a crawling light.

    Ah, were it not the Sheriff pacing slow,
    Grimly to offer me the lesser woe
    Of barren toil, and back to jail at night,—
    But Mother, as in days of long ago!

    In heaven, O God! I want no joy but this;
    Once more to have the child's unconscious bliss,
    The perfect sleep unvexed by any pain,
    And Mother to awake me with a kiss.

  12. Petals

    by Amos Russel Wells

    The shattered rose has fallen to the floor
    In shelly loveliness. The carpet's green
    Forms a new turf, and in that lower scene
    Each petal blossoms as a flower once more.
    How light it lies as having wings to soar,
    A curve of pink! And how its gentle mien,
    The soft, rich fulness of its tender sheen,

    Surpass the clustered rose we knew before!
    Oh, not in labor's summer-bloom of pride
    Does life its crowning loveliness disclose.
    Sweeter the lights in autumn days that hide,
    And tender age a morning beauty shows.
    Scatter life's broken petals far and wide:
    Each is a newer and a lovelier rose.

  13. Growing Gray

    by Austin Dobson

    "On a l'age de son caeur." A. D'Houdetot

    A little more toward the light;—
    Me miserable! Here's one that's white;
    And one that's turning;
    Adieu to song and "salad days;"
    My Muse, let's go at once to Jay's,
    And order mourning.

    We must reform our rhymes, my Dear,—
    Renounce the gay for the severe,—
    Be grave, not witty;
    We have, no more, the right to find
    That Pyrrha's hair is neatly twined,—
    That Chloe's pretty.

    Young Love's for us a farce that's played;
    Light canzonet and serenade
    No more may tempt us;
    Gray hairs but ill accord with dreams;
    From aught but sour didactic themes
    Our years exempt us.

    Indeed! you really fancy so?
    You think for one white streak we grow
    At once satiric?
    A fiddlestick! Each hair's a string
    To which our ancient Muse shall sing
    A younger lyric.

    The heart's still sound. Shall "cakes and ale"
    Grow rare to youth because we rail
    At schoolboy dishes?
    Perish the thought! 'Tis ours to chant
    When neither Time nor Tide can grant
    Belief with wishes.

  14. The One White Hair

    by Walter Savage Landor

    The wisest of the wise
    Listen to pretty lies
    And love to hear'em told.
    Doubt not that Solomon
    Listened to many a one,—
    Some in his youth, and more when he grew old.

    I never was among
    The choir of Wisdom's song,
    But pretty lies loved I
    As much as any king,
    When youth was on the wing,
    And (must it then be told?) when youth had quite gone by.

    Alas! and I have not
    The pleasant hour forgot
    When one pert lady said,
    "O Walter! I am quite
    Bewildered with affright!
    I see (sit quiet now) a white hair on your head!"

    Another more benign
    Snipped it away from mine,
    And in her own dark hair
    Pretended it was found...
    She leaped, and twirled it round...
    Fair as she was, she never was so fair!

  15. Ballade of Middle Age

    by Andrew Lang

    Our youth began with tears and sighs,
    With seeking what we could not find;
    Our verses all were threnodies,
    In elegiacs still we whined;
    Our ears were deaf, our eyes were blind,
    We sought and knew not what we sought.
    We marvel, now we look behind:
    Life's more amusing than we thought!

    Oh, foolish youth, untimely wise!
    Oh, phantoms of the sickly mind!
    What? not content with seas and skies,
    With rainy clouds and southern wind,
    With common cares and faces kind,
    With pains and joys each morning brought?
    Ah, old, and worn, and tired we find
    Life's more amusing than we thought!

    Though youth "turns spectre-thin and dies,"
    To mourn for youth we're not inclined;
    We set our souls on salmon flies,
    We whistle where we once repined.
    Confound the woes of human-kind!
    By Heaven we're "well deceived," I wot;
    Who hum, contented or resigned,
    "Life's more amusing than we thought"!


    O nate mecum, worn and lined
    Our faces show, but that is naught;
    Our hearts are young 'neath wrinkled rind:
    Life's more amusing than we thought!

  16. Middle Age

    by Rudolph Chambers Lehmann

    When that my days were fewer,
    Some twenty years ago,
    And all that is was newer,
    And time itself seemed slow,
    With ardor all impassioned,
    I let my hopes fly free,
    And deemed the world was fashioned
    My playing-field to be.

    The cup of joy was filled then
    With Fancy's sparkling wine;
    And all the things I willed then
    Seemed destined to be mine.
    Friends had I then in plenty,
    And every friend was true;
    Friends always are at twenty,
    And on to twenty-two.

    The men whose hair was sprinkled
    With little flecks of gray,
    Whose faded brows were wrinkled—
    Sure they had had their day.
    And though we bore no malice,
    We knew their hearts were cold,
    For they had drained their chalice,
    And now were spent and old.

    At thirty, we admitted,
    A man may be alive,
    But slower, feebler witted;
    And done at thirty-five.
    If Fate prolongs his earth-days,
    His joys grow fewer still;
    And after five more birthdays
    He totters down the hill.

    We were the true immortals
    Who held the earth in fee;
    For us were flung the portals
    Of fame and victory.
    The days were bright and breezy,
    And gay our banners flew,
    And every peak was easy
    To scale at twenty-two.

    And thus we spent our gay time
    As having much to spend;
    Swift, swift, that pretty playtime
    Flew by and had its end.
    And lo! without a warning
    I woke, as others do,
    One fine mid-winter morning,
    A man of forty-two.

    And now I see how vainly
    Is youth with ardor fired;
    How fondly, how insanely
    I formerly aspired.
    A boy may still detest age,
    But as for me I know,
    A man has reached his best age
    At forty-two or so.

    For youth it is the season
    Of restlessness and strife;
    Of passion and unreason,
    And ignorance of life.
    Since, though his cheeks have roses,
    No boy can understand
    That everything he knows is
    A graft at second hand.

    But we have toiled and wandered
    With weary feet and numb;
    Have doubted, sifted, pondered,—
    How else should knowledge come?
    Have seen too late for heeding,
    Our hopes go out in tears,
    Lost in the dim receding,
    Irrevocable years.

    Yet, though with busy fingers
    No more we wreathe the flowers,
    An airy perfume lingers,
    A brightness still is ours.
    And though no rose our cheeks have,
    The sky still shines as blue;
    And still the distant peaks have
    The glow of twenty-two.

  17. To Critics

    by Walter Learned

    When I was seventeen I heard
    From each censorious tongue,
    "I'd not do that if I were you;
    You see you're rather young."

    Now that I number forty years,
    I'm quite as often told
    Of this or that I shouldn't do
    Because I'm quite too old.

    O carping world! If there's an age
    Where youth and manhood keep
    An equal poise, alas! I must
    Have passed it in my sleep.

  18. Leavetaking

    by William Watson

    Pass, thou wild light,
    Wild light on peaks that so
    Grieve to let go
    The day.
    Lovely thy tarrying, lovely too is night:
    Pass thou away.

    Pass, thou wild heart,
    Wild heart of youth that still
    Hast half a will
    To stay.
    I grow too old a comrade, let us part:
    Pass thou away.

  19. Equinoctial

    by Adeline D. T. Whitney

    The sun of life has crossed the line;
    The summer-shine of lengthened light
    Faded and failed, till, where I stand,
    'Tis equal day and equal night.

    One after one, as dwindling hours,
    Youth's glowing hopes have dropped away,
    And soon may barely leave the gleam
    That coldly scores a winter's day.

    I am not young; I am not old;
    The flush of morn, the sunset calm,
    Paling and deepening, each to each,
    Meet midway with a solemn charm.

    One side I see the summer fields,
    Not yet disrobed of all their green;
    While westerly, along the hills,
    Flame the first tints of frosty sheen.

    Ah, middle-point, where cloud and storm
    Make battle-ground of this my life!
    Where, even-matched, the night and day
    Wage round me their September strife!

    I bow me to the threatening gale:
    I know when that is overpast,
    Among the peaceful harvest days,
    An Indian Summer comes at last!

  20. To Youth

    by Walter Savage Landor

    Where art thou gone, light-ankled Youth?
    With wing at either shoulder,
    And smile that never left thy mouth
    Until the Hours grew colder:

    Then somewhat seemed to whisper near
    That thou and I must part;
    I doubted it; I felt no fear,
    No weight upon the heart.

    If aught befell it, Love was by
    And rolled it off again;
    So, if there ever was a sigh,
    'Twas not a sigh of pain.

    I may not call thee back; but thou
    Returnest when the hand
    Of gentle Sleep waves o'er my brow
    His poppy-crested wand;

    Then smiling eyes bend over mine,
    Then lips once pressed invite;
    But sleep hath given a silent sign,
    And both, alas! take flight.

  21. Ave Atque Vale

    by Rosamund Marriott Watson

    Farewell my Youth! for now we needs must part,
    For here the paths divide;
    Here hand from hand must sever, heart from heart,—
    Divergence deep and wide.

    You'll wear no withered roses for my sake,
    Though I go mourning for you all day long,
    Finding no magic more in bower or brake,
    No melody in song.

    Gray Eld must travel in my company
    To seal this severance more fast and sure.
    A joyless fellowship, i' faith, 'twill be,
    Yet must we fare together, I and he,
    Till I shall tread the footpath way no more.

    But when a blackbird pipes among the boughs,
    On some dim, iridescent day in spring,
    Then I may dream you are remembering
    Our ancient vows.

    Or when some joy foregone, some fate forsworn,
    Looks through the dark eyes of the violet,
    I may re-cross the set, forbidden bourne,
    I may forget
    Our long, long parting for a little while,
    Dream of the golden splendors of your smile,
    Dream you remember yet.

  22. Oh! First Time Came

    by Charles Swain

    Oh! first Time came in crimson shoes—
    With little roses blue and yellow,
    He came with playthings, to amuse,
    And I was then a happy fellow:
    In dancing soles he next skipped by,
    With song and music, sweet and sprightly,
    While Love's eyes o'er Time's shoulder nigh,
    Smiled forth, like stars of heaven, nightly.

    Again Time called in boots and spurs,
    And rode as if his days were numbered;
    The next in slippers, lined with furs,
    In elbow-chair he sat and slumbered:
    I heard the distant music play,
    I thought of hours of love and dancing,
    But Time grew slower, day by day,
    As if with hearse and plume advancing.

    Ah me! but once sweet Childhood comes,
    But once bright Youth to love may guide us,
    Time, year to year, like lightning sums,
    And age and darkness stand beside us:
    Ah well! old Time, life's but a day—
    With some few gleams our path adorning;
    The night will come, whate'er we say—
    It cannot always, Time, be morning.

  23. An Old Man's Dreams

    by Eliza M. Sherman

    It was the twilight hour;
    Behind the western hill the sun had sunk,
    Leaving the evening sky aglow with crimson light.
    The air is filled with fragrance and with sound;
    High in the tops of shadowy vine-wreathed trees,
    Grave parent-birds were twittering good-night songs,
    To still their restless brood.
    Across the way
    A noisy little brook made pleasant
    Music on the summer air,
    And farther on, the sweet, faint sound
    Of Whippoorwill Falls rose on the air, and fell
    Like some sweet chant at vespers.
    The air is heavy
    With the scent of mignonette and rose,
    And from the beds of flowers the tall
    White lilies point like angel fingers upward,
    Casting on the air an incense sweet,
    That brings to mind the old, old story
    Of the alabaster box that loving Mary
    Broke upon the Master's feet.

    Upon his vine-wreathed porch
    An old white-headed man sits dreaming
    Happy, happy dreams of days that are no more;
    And listening to the quaint old song
    With which his daughter lulled her child to rest:

    "Abide with me," she says;
    "Fast falls the eventide;
    The darkness deepens,—
    Lord, with me abide."

    And as he listens to the sounds that fill the
    Summer air, sweet, dreamy thoughts
    Of his "lost youth" come crowding thickly up;
    And, for a while, he seems a boy again.
    With feet all bare
    He wades the rippling brook, and with a boyish shout
    Gathers the violets blue, and nodding ferns,
    That wave a welcome from the other side.
    With those he wreathes
    The sunny head of little Nell, a neighbor's child,
    Companion of his sorrows and his joys.
    Sweet, dainty Nell, whose baby life
    Seemed early linked with his,
    And whom he loved with all a boy's devotion.

    Long years have flown.
    No longer boy and girl, but man and woman grown,
    They stand again beside the brook, that murmurs
    Ever in its course, nor stays for time nor man,
    And tell the old, old story,
    And promise to be true till life for them shall end.

    Again the years roll on,
    And they are old. The frost of age
    Has touched the once-brown hair,
    And left it white as are the chaliced lilies.
    Children, whose rosy lips once claimed
    A father's blessing and a mother's love,
    Have grown to man's estate, save two
    Whom God called early home to wait
    For them in heaven.

    And then the old man thinks
    How on a night like this, when faint
    And sweet as half-remembered dreams
    Old Whippoorwill Falls did murmur soft
    Its evening psalms, when fragrant lilies
    Pointed up the way her Christ had gone,
    God called the wife and mother home,
    And bade him wait.
    Oh! why is it so hard for
    Man to wait? to sit with folded hands,
    Apart, amid the busy throng,
    And hear the buzz and hum of toil around;
    To see men reap and bind the golden sheaves
    Of earthly fruits, while he looks idly on,
    And knows he may not join,
    But only wait till God has said, "Enough!"
    And calls him home!

    And thus the old man dreams,
    And then awakes; awakes to hear
    The sweet old song just dying
    On the pulsing evening air:

    "When other helpers fail,
    And comforts flee,
    Lord of the helpless,
    Oh, abide with me!"

  24. That Time of Year

    by William Shakespeare

    That time of year thou mayst in me behold
    When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
    Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
    Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
    In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
    As after sunset fadeth in the west;
    Which by and by black night doth take away,
    Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
    In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,
    That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
    As the deathbed whereon it must expire,
    Consumed with that which it was nourished by.
    This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
    To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

  25. The Old Sailor

    by Margaret E. Sangster

    I've crossed the bar at last, mates,
    My longest voyage is done;
    And I can sit here, peaceful,
    And watch th' setting sun
    A-smilin' kind of glad like
    Upon the waves so free.
    My longest voyage is done, mates,
    But oh, the heart of me,
    Is out where sea meets skyline!
    My longest voyage is done....
    But—can I sit, in peace, mates,
    And watch the settin' sun?

    For what's a peaceful life, mates,
    When every breeze so free,
    When every gale a-blowin',
    Brings messages to me?
    And is the sky so shinin',
    For all it's golden sun,
    To one who loves the sea, mates,
    And knows his voyage is done?
    And, can a year on land, mates,
    Match with one day—at sea?
    Ah, every wind a-singin'
    Brings memory to me!

    I've crossed the bar at last, mates,
    My longest voyage is past,
    And I must watch the sunset,
    Must see it fade, at last.
    My steps are not so light, mates,
    As they were, years ago;
    And sometimes, when I'm tired,
    My head droops kind of low—
    Yet, though I'm old and—weary,
    The waves that dance so free,
    Keep callin' to my soul, mates,
    And thrill the heart of me!

  26. Resignation

    by St. George Tucker

    Days of my youth,
    Ye have glided away;
    Hairs of my youth,
    Ye are frosted and gray;
    Eyes of my youth,
    Your keen sight is no more;
    Cheeks of my youth,
    Ye are furrowed all o'er;
    Strength of my youth,
    All your vigor is gone;
    Thoughts of my youth,
    Your gay visions are flown.

    Days of my youth,
    I wish not your recall;
    Hairs of my youth,
    I'm content ye should fall;
    Eyes of my youth,
    You much evil have seen;
    Cheeks of my youth,
    Bathed in tears have you been;
    Thoughts of my youth,
    You have led me astray;
    Strength of my youth,
    Why lament your decay?

    Days of my age,
    Ye will shortly be past;
    Pains of my age,
    Yet awhile can ye last;
    Joys of my age,
    In true wisdom delight;
    Eyes of my age,
    Be religion your light;
    Thoughts of my age,
    Dread ye not the cold sod;
    Hopes of my age,
    Be ye fixed on your God.

  27. Moonlight

    by James W. Whilt

    When the moon has climbed the heavens,
    And the sun has gone to rest,
    And the evening shadows gather,
    That's the time I love the best.

    Seated by our little camp-fire,
    In the forest dark and tall,
    With the silence all around us,
    Save the roar of water-fall—

    Then the deer steal in the meadows,
    Velvet shod, so still are they,
    While among the waving grass-tops
    Spotted fawns are there at play.

    Then to me there comes a memory,
    Of the days, now past and gone,
    When my life was just in blossom,
    I was young and life was dawn.

    When I roamed the virgin forest,
    Just as free as birds that fly,
    With the moonbeams for a candle,
    And my cover was the sky.

    Still the moon shines just as brightly,
    And the stars are just as clear,
    But I see I'm growing older
    Like the ending of the year.

    Frost is gathering on my temple,
    Soon my hair will be like snow,
    But His will we all must follow
    And some day we all must go.

    Yet, I'm ever, ever hoping
    That upon those shores of gold,
    We will have the self-same moonlight
    As we had in the days of old.

  28. But One

    by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

    The year has but one June, dear friend,
    The year has but one June;
    And when that perfect month doth end,
    The robin's song, though loud, though long,
    Seems never quite in tune.

    The rose, though still its blushing face
    By bee and bird is seen,
    May yet have lost that subtle grace—
    That nameless spell the winds know well—
    Which makes its gardens queen.

    Life's perfect June, love's red, red rose,
    Have burned and bloomed for me.
    Though still youth's summer sunlight glows;
    Though thou art kind, dear friend, I find
    I have no heart for thee.

  29. The Songs of Summer

    by Mathilde Blind

    The songs of summer are over and past!
    The swallow's forsaken the dripping eaves;
    Ruined and black 'mid the sodden leaves
    The nests are rudely swung in the blast:
    And ever the wind like a soul in pain
    Knocks and knocks at the window-pane.

    The songs of summer are over and past!
    Woe's me for a music sweeter than theirs—
    The quick, light bound of a step on the stairs,
    The greeting of lovers too sweet to last:
    And ever the wind like a soul in pain
    Knocks and knocks at the window-pane.

  30. Growing Old

    by Matthew Arnold

    What is it to grow old?
    Is it to lose the glory of the form,
    The luster of the eye?
    Is it for beauty to forego her wreath?
    —Yes, but not 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 loosely 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 fullness 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.

  31. Autumn

    by Ed Blair

    Turning to gold are the leaves,
    Autumn, sad Autumn is here,
    Over the scene my heart grieves,
    For we have lost summer's cheer.
    Rustling and eddying down,
    Filling the hollows below,
    Leaves that gave summer renown
    Now to their wintry beds go.

    Sad and alone now, I tread
    Paths that in June were deep bowers,
    Looking in vain for the red
    And the pink of the beautiful flowers,
    List'ning in vain for the song
    Of the thrush and the dear whip-poor-will.
    Flown is the joyous gay throng,
    Flown, and the woodlands are still.

    Over the river so still
    The eddying gusts slowly stray,
    Once summer's breath—now a chill
    Comes with their passing today,
    And though the sun's rays now kiss
    The beds of the flowers so dear,
    Summer, sweet summer we miss,
    Autumn, sad Autumn is here.

    So is the Autumn of life;
    Flowers are dead that once bloomed,
    Hopes in our hearts that were rife,
    Now by the years are entombed.
    And o'er the pathway of years,
    Guided by memory's tread,
    We wander again in our tears,
    'Tis Autumn—Sweet Summer is dead.

  32. November

    by Samuel Longfellow

    Summer is gone; but summer days return;
    The winds and frosts have stripped the woodlands bare,
    Save for some clinging foliage here and there;
    Then as if, pitiful, her heart did yearn,
    Nature, the loving mother, lifts her urn
    And pours the stream of life to her spent child:
    The desert air grows strangely soft and mild,
    And in his veins the long-fled ardors burn.

    So, when we pass the mid-years of our lives,
    And, sad or glad, we feel our work nigh done,
    There come to us with sudden, swift returns,
    The glow, the thrill, which show that youth survives,
    That—though through softening mists—still shines the sun;
    And in our souls the Indian summer burns.

  33. December Days

    by Caleb Prentiss

    Ruthless winter's rude career
    Comes to close the parting year;
    Fleecy flakes of snow descend,
    Boreal winds the welkin rend.
    Reflect, oh man! and well remember
    That dull old age is dark December;
    For soon the year of life is gone,
    When hoary hairs like snow come on.

  34. The Willow

    by Georgia Douglas Johnson

    When life is young, without a care,
    Alone we walk, and free:
    The world, a splendid merry round
    Of rhythmic melody.

    Before the end, grim sorrow calls
    Into each mortal ear,
    When friendship fades to memories,
    And love lies in its bier.

    Then, then it is that sympathy
    Is holden close and dear;
    Ah, then life's consolation comes
    Commingled with a tear.

  35. Withered Leaves

    by Peter Burn

    I watch the leaves as they fade and fall
    And form a heap by my garden wall.

    I think of my loss in days "to be,"
    My garden's wealth but a leafless tree.

    I loved those leaves in their day of birth:
    I love them now in the lap of earth.

    Withered leaves! They are beautiful yet,
    Though nipt by the frost, and dash'd by the wet!

    Mine eyes feast not on the world of green,
    Death holds its revels where life has been.

    Snow, sleet, and hail, and a sunless sky!
    These, these are mine, till the by and by.

    I wait the hour. My heart has rest;
    Seasons are faithful to His behest.

    Through leaden sky, and through leafless tree,
    I see the summer that is to be.

  36. Autumn Thoughts

    I said to Earth, so cold and gray,
    'An emblem of myself thou art.'

    – Autumn Thoughts
    John Greenleaf Whittier
    by John Greenleaf Whittier

    Gone hath the Spring, with all its flowers,
    And gone the Summer's pomp and show,
    And Autumn, in his leafless bowers,
    Is waiting for the Winter's snow.

    I said to Earth, so cold and gray,
    'An emblem of myself thou art.'
    'Not so,' the Earth did seem to say,
    'For Spring shall warm my frozen heart.'
    I soothe my wintry sleep with dreams
    Of warmer sun and softer rain,
    And wait to hear the sound of streams
    And songs of merry birds again....

    But thou, from whom the Spring hath gone,
    For whom the flowers no longer blow,
    Who standest blighted and forlorn,
    Like Autumn waiting for the snow;

    No hope is thine of sunnier hours,
    Thy Winter shall no more depart;
    No Spring revive thy wasted flowers,
    Nor Summer warm thy frozen heart.

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