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Sir Francis Bacon


Essay 42

Of Youth and Age.
1 A Man that is Young in yeares, may be Old in Houres, if he haue lost no Time. But that happeneth rarely. Generally, youth is like the first Cogitations, not so Wise as the Second. For there is a youth in thoughts as well as in Ages. And yet the Inuention of Young Men, is more liuely, then that of Old: And Imaginations streame into their Mindes better, and, as it were, more Diuinely. Natures that haue much Heat, and great and violent desires and Perturbations, are not ripe for Action, till they haue passed the Meridian of their yeares: As it was with Iulius Cæsar, & Septimius Seuerus. Of the latter of whom, it is said; Iuu\-etutem egit, Erroribus, imò Furoribus, plenan. And yet he was the Ablest Emperour, almost, of all the List. But Reposed Natures may doe well in Youth. As it is seene, in Augustus Cæsar, Cosmus Duke of Florence, Gaston de Fois, and others. On the other side, Heate and Viuacity in Age, is an Excellent Composition for Businesse. Young Men, are Fitter to Inuent, then to Iudge; Fitter for Execution, then for Counsell; And Fitter for New Proiects, then for Setled Businesse. For the Experience of Age, in Things that fall within the compasse of it, directeth them; But in New Things, abuseth them. The Errours of Young Men are the Ruine of Businesse; But the Errours of Aged Men amount but to this; That more might haue beene done, or sooner. Young Men, in the Conduct, and Mannage of Actions, Embrace more then they can Hold, Stirre more then they can Quiet; Fly to the End, without Consideration of the Meanes, and Degrees; Pursue some few Principles, which they haue chanced vpon absurdly; Care not to Innouate, which draws vnknowne Inconueniences; Vse extreme Remedies at first; And, that which doubleth all Errours, will not acknowledge or retract them; Like an vnready Horse, that will neither Stop, nor Turne. Men of Age, Obiect too much, Consult too long, Aduenture too little, Repent too soone, and seldome driue Businesse home to the full Period; But content themselues with a Mediocrity of Successe. Certainly, it is good to compound Employments of both; For that will be Good for the Present, because the Vertues of either Age, may correct the defects of both: And good for Succession, that Young Men may be Learners, while Men in Age are Actours: And lastly, Good for Externe Accidents, because Authority followeth Old Men, And Fauour and Popularity Youth. But for the Morall Part, perhaps Youth will haue the preheminence, as Age hath for the Politique. A certaine Rabbine, vpon the Text; Your Young Men shall see visions, and your Old Men shall dreame dreames; Inferreth, that Young Men are admitted nearer to God then Old; Because Vision is a clearer Reuelation, then a Dreame. And certainly, the more a Man drinketh of the World, the more it intoxicateth; And Age doth profit rather in the Powers of Vnderstanding, then in the Vertues of the Will and Affections. There be some haue an Ouerearly Ripenesse in their yeares, which fadeth betimes: These are first, Such as haue Brittle Wits, the Edge whereof is soone turned; Such as was Hermogenes the Rhetorician, whose Books are exceeding Subtill; Who afterwards waxed Stupid. A Second Sort is of those, that haue some naturall dispositions, which haue better Grace in Youth, then in Age: Such as is a fluent and Luxuriant Speech; which becomes Youth well, but not Age: So Tully saith of Hortentius; Idem manebat, neque idem decebat. The third is of such, as take too high a Straine at the First; And are Magnanimous, more then Tract of yeares can vphold. As was Scipio Affricanus, of whom Liuy saith in effect; Vltima primis cedebant.

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Edited by Ian Lancashire (Dept. of English, University of Toronto) Assisted by Allison Hay.
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