His fortune, wife, and children to neglect;
Almost condemn’d, he moved the judges thus,
‘Hear, but instead of me, my Oedipus.’
The judges hearing with applause, at th’end
Freed him, and said, ‘No fool such lines had penn’d’.
What poets and what orators can I
Recount, what princes in philosophy, 240
Whose constant studies with their age did strive?
Nor did they those, though those did them survive.
Old husbandmen I at Sabinum know,
Who for another year dig, plough, and sow.
For never any man was yet so old,
But hoped his life one winter more might hold.
Caecilius vainly said, ’Each day we spend
Discovers something, which must needs offend;’
But sometimes age may pleasant things behold,
And nothing that offends. He should have told 250
This not to age, but youth, who oft’ner see
What not alone offends, but hurts, than we.
That, I in him, which he in age condemn’d,
That us it renders odious, and contemn’d.
He knew not virtue, if he thought this truth;
For youth delights in age, and age in youth.
What to the old can greater pleasure be,
Than hopeful and ingenious youth to see,
When they with rev’rence follow where we lead,
And in straight paths by our directions tread? 260
And e’en my conversation here I see,
As well received by you, as yours by me.
’Tis disingenuous to accuse our age
Of idleness, who all our powers engage
In the same studies, the same course to hold;
Nor think our reason for new arts too old.
Solon the sage his progress never ceased,
But still his learning with his days increased;
And I with the same greediness did seek,
As water when I thirst, to swallow Greek; 270
Which I did only learn, that I might know
Those great examples which I follow now:
And I have heard that Socrates the wise,
Learn’d on the lute for his last exercise.
Though many of the ancients did the same,
To improve knowledge was my only aim.
Now int’ our second grievance I must break,
‘That loss of strength makes understanding weak.’
I grieve no more my youthful strength to want,
Than, young, that of a bull, or elephant;
Then with that force content, which Nature gave,
Nor am I now displeased with what I have.
When the young wrestlers at their sport grew warm,
Old Milo wept, to see his naked arm;
And cried, ’twas dead. Trifler! thine heart and head,
And all that’s in them (not thy arm) are dead;
This folly every looker on derides,
To glory only in thy arms and sides.
Our gallant ancestors let fall no tears,
Their strength decreasing by increasing years; 290