I have to write this post sort of backwards, so bear with me:
Young and OldNow the first half of this is pretty famous - the second however, not so much. Lets be honest, the second verse smacks either of the crass indifference of youth ('get back in yer box, Grandad') or is an expression of depression and frailty and loss by a poet who feels his age, feels lonely and in a sense abandoned.
Charles Kingsley (1819-1875)
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 find one face there,
You loved when all was young.
It doesn't really matter which way Kingsley meant it, or how old he was when he wrote it - there are alternate meanings to that second verse, depending on the age and experience of the reader, but if you are noticing your own mortality, the meaning is very clear.
If you were a bit creaky, feeling the loss of speed and the indifference of society, wouldn't that second verse be a bit of a gut punch?
How about you're a widow or widower with no-one you love at home, your evenings all silence?
How about you are sitting in the bloody doctor's surgery because you or your equally elderly husband or wife are sick?
Yup. The crass ignorance of the well meaning airy-fairy types knows no bounds. In our Doctor's waiting room (I was there two days ago with this vertigo thing) is a lovely, gatefold pamphlet in solid pink card. The front says it is called 'Poems In The Waiting Room' and is sponsored by The Beatrice Trust, The Poetry Society and the Arts Council.
All these organisations involved, and yet nobody noticed that when you open the damn thing, in the middle of the middle section, slap bang centre and the first thing you see, is this depressive work of Kingsley's own personal torture which effectively says "If you're old and frail, give up, crawl off home and wait to die, mate". What a lovely thought to keep you going until your appointment.
Nice one - very clever - not. Don't people just make you wonder what planet you're on, some days?