The Harbingers are come

15 Jan

The harbingers are come. See, see their mark:
White is their colour, and behold my head.
But must they have my brain? Must they dispark
Those sparkling notions, which therein were bred?
Must dullness turn me to a clod?

Alright, I left out the last line. It was a bit too religious for me. But how often do you get George Herbert quoted to you? Mea culpa.

I have a significant birthday coming up in a couple of days. The thought depressed me considerably a week ago, but the prospect is worse than the reality. But I am still not really looking forward to it. My beard is almost completely white now, though my moustache is still quite ginger. Harbingers were outriders, sent ahead to mark the king’s progress. They would make marks on the doors of houses where the king’s party was to stay. Herbert uses the metaphor to suggest the greying of his hair is the mark showing him his own mortality. He seems to look forward to meeting his god, while raging against the dying of the light is more my style.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

It does me good to quote a bit of Dylan Thomas of a morning. And I fully intend to grow old disgracefully – so long as my body and brain hold out. My favourite poem about growing old is Ulysses by Tennyson. This is too long to quote in its entirety, but here is the last bit.

Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in the old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are,
One equal-temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Way to go, Alf.

Oh and a good guide book for old age is Travels with my Aunt by Graham Greene!


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