OLD AND YOUNG

By James Furbish

Give me ripe fruit with the green—
Fresh leaves mingling with the sear;
As in tropic climes are seen
Blending through the deathless year.

I am alarmed at the changes which are taking place in society. While many are lauding the spirit of the age and holding up to my gaze the picture of forth-coming improvements—opening broad and charming vistas into the almost present future of mental and moral perfection, I cannot help casting a lingering look upon the past. Time was when old age and infancy, manhood and youth, walked the path of life together; when the strength of young limbs aided the feebleness of the old, and the joyousness of youth enlivened the gravity of age. But the son has now left the father to totter on alone, and the daughter has outstripped the mother in the race. Beauty and strength have separated from decrepitude and weakness. The vine has uncoiled from its natural support, and the ivy has ceased to entwine the oak.

There is an increasing disposition on the part of the young and the old to classify their pleasures according to their age. Those pastimes which used to be enjoyed by both together, are now separated. This is an evil of too serious a character to pass unfelt, unlamented or unrebuked. It is easy to refer back to days when parents were more happy with their children, and children more honorable and useful to parents than at present. It is not long since the old and the young were to be seen together in the blithesome dance and the merry play. And why this change? Why do we find that, within a few years, the old have abandoned amusements to the young? Is it that they think their children can profit more by their amusements than if they were present? If this be the impression it is to be regretted. No course could they possibly adopt so injurious to the character of their children. For youth need the direction and the advice of age, and age requires the exhilaration and cheerfulness of youth. How many lonely evenings would be enlivened—how many dark visions of the future would be dissipated, and how many hours of gloom and despondency would be put to flight, if fathers would keep pace with their sons, and mothers with their daughters, in the innocent pleasures of life. Here, as it appears to me, is the grand secret of happiness for the young and the old. For the old, who are too apt to dwell on the glories of the past and to see nothing that is lovely in the present; and for the young, who throw too strong and gaudy a light upon the present and the future. Nature did not so intend it. So long as there is life, she intended we should innocently enjoy it. And the barrier which has, by some unaccountable mishap, been thrown between the young and the old is, therefore, greatly to be lamented. But how shall it be removed? How shall we get back again to the good old times of the merry husking, the joyous dance, the happy commingling in the same company, of the priest and his deacon, the father and his child, the husband and his wife?

It would not be difficult to trace directly to the discontinuance of the practice of joining with the young in their amusements, the great increase of youthful dissipation of every description. By being removed from the advice, restraint and example of the old and experienced, they have, by degrees, fallen into usages which were almost unknown in years gone by. When accompanied by parents, the hours of pleasure were seasonable. Daughters were under the inspection of mothers, and sons were guided by the wisdom of fathers. Homes were happier, the community more virtuous, and the world at large a gainer by such judicious customs. We now hear the complaint that sons have gone astray, that daughters have behaved indiscreetly, and that families have been disgraced. But can there be a doubt, if the practice were general of accompanying our children in those pastimes in which they ought to be reasonably indulged, that many of these evils would be prevented? Here then must begin the reform. Complain not that your son is out late, if you might have been with him to bring him to your fire-side at a seasonable hour. Complain not that your daughter has formed an unsuitable or untimely connexion, if a mother's care might have avoided the evil. Youth will go astray without the protection of age. And it is a crying sin that these old-fashioned moral restraints have been removed. What, I ask, can be your object in thus leaving your children to their own direction? Do they love you the better for it? Are their manners more agreeable—their conduct more respectful while at home? Is not rather the reverse of this the case? Do they not give you more trouble at home? Are they not every day incurring new and useless expenses in consequence of allowing them to legislate and plan for themselves? Rashness is the characteristic of youth. But allowing them to be capable of governing themselves, you are a great loser by drawing this strong division line between their pleasures and your own. Your own years are less in number and in happiness. Your children are dead to you, though alive to themselves. Your sympathies are not linked with theirs step by step in life; and thus, although surrounded by children, you go childless, unhappy and gloomy to the grave. Reform then, I say, reform at once. Annihilate this classification of junior and senior pleasures. Join with your children in the dance, the song and the play. Enjoy with them every harmless pleasure and sport of life. Encompass yourself as often as possible with the gay faces of the young. Teach them by example, to be happy like rational beings, and to enjoy life without abusing it. Let the ripe fruit be seen with the green—the blossom with the bud—the green with the fading leaf and the vine with its natural support:

Show the ripe fruit with the green—
Fresh leaves twining with the sear;
As in tropic climes are seen
Harmonizing through the year.