I HEARD an old man say today:
‘A young man gives me orders now,’
A beardless youth gets better pay
And tells me what to do and how;
While I have toiled for forty years,
A stripling enters in the race
And with a single bound appears
And eagerly usurps my place.
‘I’ve seen them shake their heads at me,
And I have often heard them sigh
As they my faltering hand would see:
‘The times, alas, have passed him by,
He isn’t what he used to be,
He’s lost his grip,’ and well I knew
hat youth at last had conquered me,
As youth old age will ever do.
‘And now it’s come, and I behold
Young fighters stripped to face the fray,
Exultant, clear of eye and bold,
Where I was wont to lead the way.
My nerve, they say, is gone from me,
I fear to do what youth will dare,
I shrink from opportunity,
My place is in an easy chair.
‘This has been so since time began,
And to the end of time will be,
Brief is the working time of man,
Brief as the leaf upon the tree.
The young man comes, the old man goes,
Old eyes, old brains, old bodies fail,
Beyond our powers the struggle grows,
Old age drops out. So ends the tale.’