Mimnermus

Poem 2

 c. 630 BC

But we are like the leaves that flowery spring
puts forth, quick spreading in the sun’s warm
    light:
for a brief span of time we take our joy
in our youth’s bloom, the future, good or ill,
kept from us, while the twin dark Dooms stand
    by,
one bringing to fulfillment harsh old age,
the other, death. The ripeness of youth’s fruit
is short, short as the sunlight on the earth,
and once this season of perfection’s past,
it’s better to be dead than stay alive.
All kinds of worry come. One man’s estate
is failing, and there’s painful poverty;
another has no sons—the keenest need
one feels as one goes down below the earth;
sickness wears down another’s heart. There’s
    none
Zeus does not give a multitude of ills.

Michel de Montaigne

“Of Age”

 c. 1576

To die of old age is a death rare, extraordinary, and singular, and therefore so much less natural than the others: it is the last and most extreme sort of dying—and the more remote, the less to be hoped for. It is indeed the boundary of life beyond which we are not to pass, which the law of nature has pitched for a limit not to be exceeded; but it is withal a privilege she is rarely seen to give us to last till then. It is a lease she only signs by particular favor, and maybe to one only in the space of two or three ages, and then with a pass to boot, to carry him through all the traverses and difficulties she has strewed in the way of this long career. And therefore my opinion is that when once forty years old, we should consider it as an age to which very few arrive, for seeing that men do not usually proceed so far, it is a sign that we are pretty well advanced, and since we have exceeded the ordinary bounds which make the just measure of life, we ought not to expect to go much further. Having escaped so many precipices of death, whereinto we have seen so many other men fall, we should acknowledge that so extraordinary a fortune as that which has hitherto rescued us from those imminent perils—and kept us alive beyond the ordinary term of living—is not likely to continue long.

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