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This report is taken from PN Review 137, Volume 27 Number 3, January - February 2001.

Rocks of Ageing Lawrence Sail

'Old age,' Emerson wrote in his Journals, 'brings along with its uglinesses the comfort that you will soon be out of it - which ought to be a substantial relief to such discontented pendulums as we are. To be out of the war, out of debt, out of the drouth, out of the blues, out of the dentist's hands, out of the second thoughts, mortifications and remorses that inflict such twinges and shooting pains, -out of the next winter, and the high prices, and company below your ambition, - surely these are soothing hints.' Such relative cheerfulness, in which Lethe washes the slate clean, is hardly characteristic of writers taking the measure of their mortality. From Bacon (I am too old, and the seas are too long, for me to double the Cape of Good Hope') to Christina Rossetti's Mirage'('... and now I wake, / Exceeding comfortless, and worn, and old') to Dylan Thomas ('Old age should burn and rave at close of day') or Eliot's 'Gerontion' ('I an old man, / A dull head among windy spaces'), few have been able to muster the apparent insouciance of the same poet's Prufrock ('I grow old ...I grow old... / I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled'). Too often, for the poet whose destiny it is to live into old age, duration seems to mean a durance of greater or lesser vileness.

Historically, morale can hardly have been helped by the 'half in love with easeful ...


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