When an Athenian stranger of great age
Arrived at Sparta, climbing up the stage,
To him the whole assembly rose, and ran
To place and ease this old and rev’rend man,
Who thus his thanks returns, ‘Th’ Athenians know
What’s to be done, but what they know not do.’
Here our great Senate’s orders I may quote,
The first in age is still the first in vote.
Nor honour, nor high birth, nor great command,
In competition with great years may stand. 660
Why should our youth’s short, transient, pleasures dare
With age’s lasting honours to compare?
On the world’s stage, when our applause grows high,
For acting here life’s tragic-comedy,
The lookers-on will say we act not well,
Unless the last the former scenes excel:
But age is froward, uneasy, scrutinous,
Hard to be pleased, and parsimonious;
But all those errors from our manners rise,
Not from our years; yet some morosities 670
We must expect, since jealousy belongs
To age, of scorn, and tender sense of wrongs:
Yet these are mollified, or not discern’d,
Where civil arts and manners have been learn’d:
So the Twins’ humours, in our Terence, are
Unlike-this harsh and rude, that smooth and fair.
Our nature here is not unlike our wine, 677
Some sorts, when old, continue brisk and fine;
So age’s gravity may seem severe,
But nothing harsh or bitter ought t’appear.
Of age’s avarice I cannot see
What colour, ground, or reason there should be:
Is it not folly, when the way we ride
Is short, for a long voyage to provide?
To avarice some title youth may own,
To reap in autumn what the spring had sown;
And, with the providence of bees, or ants,
Prevent with summer’s plenty winter’s wants.
But age scarce sows till death stands by to reap,
And to a stranger’s hand transfers the heap; 690
Afraid to be so once, she’s always poor,
And to avoid a mischief makes it sure.
Such madness, as for fear of death to die,
Is to be poor for fear of poverty.
 ‘Tarentine’: Archytas, much praised by Horace.  ‘Twins’ humours’: in his comedy called ‘Adelphi.’
Now against (that which terrifies our age)
The last, and greatest grievance, we engage;
To her grim Death appears in all her shapes,
The hungry grave for her due tribute gapes.
Fond, foolish man! with fear of death surprised,
Which either should be wish’d for, or despised; 700
This, if our souls with bodies death destroy;
That, if our souls a second life enjoy.
What else is to be fear’d, when we shall gain
Eternal life, or have no sense of pain?
The youngest in the morning are not sure
That till the night their life they can secure;