"No snow falls lighter than the snow of age;
but none is heavier, for it never melts."
The figure is by no means novel, but the closing part of the sentence is new as well as
emphatic. The Scriptures represent age by the almond-tree, which bears blossoms of purest
white. "The almond-tree shall flourish," the head shall be hoary. Dickens shays of one of his
characters, whose hair was turning gray, that it looked as if Time had lightly splashed his
snows upon it in passing.
"It never melts" - no never. Age is inexorable. Its wheels must move onward; they know no
retrograde movement. The old man may sit and sing, "I would I were a boy again," but he
grows older as he sings. He may read of the elixir of youth, but he cannot find it; he may sigh
for the secrets of that alchemy which is able to make him young again, but sighing brings it
not. He may gaze backward with an eye of longing upon the rosy scenes of early years, as one
who gazes on his home from the deck of a departing ship, which every moment carries him
farther and farther away. Poor old man! he has little more to do than die.
"It never melts." The snow of winter comes and sheds its white blessings upon the valley and
the mountains, but soon the sweet spring comes and smiles it all away. Not so with that upon
the brow of the tottering veteran. There is no spring whose warmth can penetrate its eternal
frost. It came to stay. Its single flakes fell unnoticed - and now it is drilled there. We shall see
it increase until we lay the old man in his grave. There it shall be absorbed by the eternal
darkness - for there is no age in heaven.
The young, who all wish to live, but who at the same time have a dread of growing old, may
not be disposed to allow the justice of the representation we are now to make. They regard old
age as a dreary season, that admits of nothing which can be called pleasure, and very little
which deserves the name even of comfort. They look forward to it, as in autumn we anticipate
the approach of winter; but winter, though it terrifies us at a distance, had nothing very
formidable when it arrives. Its enjoyments are of a different kind, but we find it not less
pleasant than any other season of the year.
In like manner old age, frightful as it may be to the young, who view it afar off, has no terror
to them who see it near; but experience proves that it abounds with consolations, and even
with delights. We should look therefore with pleasure on many old men, whose illuminated
faces and hoary heads resemble one of those pleasant days in winter, so common in this
climate, when a bright sun darts it beams on a pure field of snow. The beauty of spring, the
splendor of summer, and the glory of autumn are gone; but the prospect is still lively and
Among other circumstances which contribute to the satisfaction of this period of life, is the
respect with which old age is treated. There are, it must be acknowledged and lamented, some
foolish and ill-educated young persons who do not pay that veneration which is due to the
hoary head; but these examples are not numerous.
The world in general bows down to age, gives it precedence, and listens with deference to its
opinions. Old age wants accommodations; and it must in justice to man be allowed that they
are afforded with cheerfulness. Who can deny that such reverence is soothing to the human
mind? and that it compensates us for the loss of many pleasures which are peculiar to youth?
The respect of the world in general is gratifying; but the respect of a man's own offspring
must yield heartfelt delight. Can there be a more pleasing sight, than a venerable old man
surrounded by his children and grandchildren, all of whom are emulous of each other in
testifying their homage and affection? His children, proud of their honored father, strive who
shall treat him with the most attention, while his grandchildren hang on his neck, entertain
him with their innocent prattle, and convince him that they love their grandfather not less
than they love their father. Whoever takes a little child into his love, may have a very roomy
heart, but that child will fill it all. The children that are in the world keep us from growing
old and cold; they cling to our garments with their little hands, and impede our progress to
petrification; they win us back with their pleading eyes from cruel care; they never encumber
us at all. A poor old couple, with no one to love them, is a most pitiful picture; but a hovel with
a small face to fill a broken pane, here and there, is robbed of its desolateness. A little
thoughtful attention, how happy it makes the old! They have outlived most of the friends of
their early youth. How lonely their hours! Often their partners in life have long filled silent
graves; often their children they have followed to the tomb. They stand solitary, bending on
their staff, waiting till the same call shall reach them. How often they must think of absent,
lamented faces, of the love which cherished them, and the tears of sympathy which fell with
theirs --- now all gone. Why should not the young cling around and comfort them, cheering
their gloom with happy smiles?
That old man! what disappointments he has encountered in his long journey, what bright
hopes blasted, what sorrows felt, what agonies endured, how many loved ones he has covered
up in the grave. And that old woman, too! husband dead, children all buried or far away, life's
flowers faded, the friends of her youth no more, and she waiting to go soon. Ought we ever to
miss an opportunity of showing attention to the aged, of proffering a kindness, or lighting up a
smile, by a courteous act or a friendly deed?
Why speak of age in a mournful strain? It is beautiful, honorable, eloquent. Should we sigh at
the proximity of death, when life and the world are so full of emptiness? Let the old exult
because they are old. If any must weep, let it be the young, at the long succession of cares that
are before them. Welcome the snow, for it is the emblem of peace and of rest. It is but a
temporal crown which shall fall at the gates of Paradise, to be replaced by a brighter and a
The Royal Path of Life - Aims and Aids to Success and Happiness - 1882 by T.L. Haines & L.W. Yaggy