I’m sure most of you know that on this day (Dec. 14) in 1542, Princess Mary Stuart became Queen Mary I of Scotland when she was 6 days old. I’d previously thought (as reported in my Oct. 23 post NEWS OF THE DAY) that Valentinian III was a mite young when he became Roman Emperor at age 6 years in 425 AD, but now I realize my opinion was premature (which I wouldn’t be surprised to learn was the stage at which some not-as-yet-born baby in history became a monarch).
So, upon reconsideration, I can see that becoming a ruler at the tender age of six years doesn’t make much difference in terms of maturity level in some cases. Take Kim Jong-un, Supreme Leader of North Korea, for example — it’s hard to imagine that he is any more mature now than he was at age six (just kidding, Kim — you don’t really want to infect my computer when you have much bigger phish to fry, do you, Sony boy?).
But most of us do “grow” old and can look back clear-eyed and bemused by our long and, at times, bittersweet journey. I think this poem by British clergyman, professor and historian Charles Kingsley (1819-1875) captures that feeling as well as any:
THE OLD, OLD SONG
When all the world is young, lad,
And all the trees are green;
And every goose a swan, lad,
And every lass a queen;
Then hey for boot and horse, lad,
And round the world away;
Young blood must have its course, lad,
And every dog his day.
When all the world is old, lad,
And all the trees are brown;
And all the sport is stale, lad,
And all the wheels run down:
Creep home and take your place there,
The spent and maimed among.
God grant you one find one face there
You loved when all was young.