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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Of Different Ages
By Joseph Joubert (1754–1824)
Translation of Thomas Wentworth Higginson

NOTHING is so hard to children as reflection. This is because the final and essential destiny of the soul is to see, to know, and not to reflect. To reflect is one of the toils of life; a means of arriving, a route, a passage, and not a centre. To know and be known,—these are the two points of repose; such will be the happiness of souls.  1
  Address yourself to young people: they know it all.  2
  There is nothing good in man but his young feelings and his old thoughts.  3
  Two ages of life should be sexless: the child and the aged man should be as modest as women.  4
  Old age robs the man of sense only of those qualities that are useless to wisdom.  5
  It would seem that for certain intellectual product the winter of the body is the autumn of the soul.  6
  The residuum of human wisdom, refined by age, is perhaps the best thing we have.  7
  Life’s evening brings with it its lamp.  8
  Those who have a long old age are, as it were, purified of the body.  9
  Old age must have had most honor in times when each man could not know much more than what he had seen.  10
  It is well to treat our life as we treat our writings: to provide that the beginning, the middle, and the end are in proportion, in harmony. For this object we need to make many erasures.  11
  There is a time when the body’s forces change place and concentrate themselves in the mind.  12
  To be born obscure and die famous are the two boundaries of human happiness.  13
  The deliberation of old age makes it easier to be patient in labor.  14
  We are all priests of Vesta, and life is the sacred fire which we are to prolong until God extinguishes it.  15
  A beautiful old age is for all beholders a delightful promise, since each can hope the same for him or his.  16
  Old men constitute the true majority among the people.  17
  Only robust old men have the dignity of old age, and they are the only ones who can justly speak of it.  18
  Courtesy softens wrinkles.  19
  One loves an old man as a perishable treasure; a ripe fruit whose fall one must expect.  20
  In neat and fresh garments old age finds a sort of youth with which to surround itself.  21
  No one is truly happy in old age except the aged priest and those of similar type.  22
  It is a good thing to die still lovable; if one only can.  23
  Patience and trial, courage and death, resignation and necessity, arrive usually together. Indifference to life comes when it is no longer possible to preserve life.  24

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