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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Death Is Welcome to the Old
By Marcus Tullius Cicero (106–43 B.C.)
 
From the ‘Dialogue on Old Age

AN OLD man indeed has nothing to hope for; yet he is in so much the happier state than a young one, since he has already attained what the other is only hoping for. The one is wishing to live long, the other has lived long. And yet, good gods! what is there in man’s life that can be called long? For allow the latest period: let us anticipate the age of the kings of the Tartessii. For there dwelt, as I find it recorded, a man named Arganthonius at Gades, who reigned for eighty years, and lived one hundred and twenty. But to my mind nothing whatever seems of long duration, in which there is any end. For when that arrives, then the time which has passed has flowed away; that only remains which you have secured by virtue and right conduct. Hours indeed depart from us, and days and months and years; nor does past time ever return, nor can it be discovered what is to follow. Whatever time is assigned to each to live, with that he ought to be content: for neither need the drama be performed entire by the actor, in order to give satisfaction, provided he be approved in whatever act he may be; nor need the wise man live till the plaudite. For the short period of life is long enough for living well and honorably; and if you should advance further, you need no more grieve than farmers do when the loveliness of springtime hath passed, that summer and autumn have come. For spring represents the time of youth and gives promise of the future fruits; the remaining seasons are intended for plucking and gathering in those fruits. Now the harvest of old age, as I have often said, is the recollection and abundance of blessings previously secured. In truth, everything that happens agreeably to nature is to be reckoned among blessings. What, however, is so agreeable to nature as for an old man to die? which even is the lot of the young, though nature opposes and resists. And thus it is that young men seem to me to die just as when the violence of flame is extinguished by a flood of water; whereas old men die as the exhausted fire goes out, spontaneously, without the exertion of any force: and as fruits when they are green are plucked by force from the trees, but when ripe and mellow drop off, so violence takes away their lives from youths, maturity from old men; a state which to me indeed is so delightful, that the nearer I approach to death, I seem as it were to be getting sight of land, and at length after a long voyage to be just coming into harbor.  1
 
 
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