Quotations about   age

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You need to claim the events of your life to make yourself yours. When you truly possess all that you have been and done, which may take some time, you are fierce with reality. When at last age has assembled you together, will it not be easy to let it all go, lived, balanced, over?

Florida Scott-Maxwell (1883-1979) American-British playwright, author psychologist
The Measure of My Days (1968)
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Added on 16-Nov-20 | Last updated 16-Nov-20
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It is impossible to divide the past into distinct, clearly defined periods and prove that one age ended and another began in a particular year, such as 476, or 1453, or 1789. Men do not and cannot change their habits and ways of doing things all at once, no matter what happens.

James Harvey Robinson (1863-1936) American historian and educator
An Introduction to the History of Western Europe, ch. 1 “The Historical Point of View” (1902)
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Youth is full of sunshine and life. Youth is happy, because it has the ability to see beauty. When this ability is lost, wretched old age begins, decay, unhappiness. […] Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.

Franz Kafka (1883-1924) Czech-Austrian Jewish writer
In Gustav Janouch, Conversations with Kafka (1951; 1971 ed.)
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The crucial task of age is balance, a veritable tightrope of balance; keeping just well enough, just brave enough, just gay and interested and starkly honest enough to remain a sentient human being.

Florida Scott-Maxwell (1883-1979) American-British playwright, author psychologist
The Measure of My Days (1968)
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Added on 28-Sep-20 | Last updated 28-Sep-20
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Always it is, that the hearts in the younger men are frivolous,
but when an elder man is among them, he looks behind him
and in front, so that all comes out far better for both sides.

[Αἰεὶ δ’ ὁπλοτέρων ἀνδρῶν φρένες ἠερέθονται·
οἷς δ’ ὁ γέρων μετέῃσιν ἅμα πρόσσω καὶ ὀπίσσω
λεύσσει, ὅπως ὄχ’ ἄριστα μετ’ ἀμφοτέροισι γένηται.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Iliad, Book 3, ll. 108-110 [Menelaus] (c. 750 BC) [tr. Lattimore (1951)]
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Alt. trans.:
All young men’s hearts are still unstaid; but in those well-weigh'd deeds
An old man will consent to pass things past, and what succeeds
He looks into, that he may know, how best to make his way
Through both the fortunes of a fact, and will the worst obey.
[tr. Chapman (1611), ll. 113-16]

And youth itself an empty wavering state:
Cool age advances, venerably wise,
Turns on all hands its deep-discerning eyes;
Sees what befell, and what may yet befall,
Concludes from both, and best provides for all.
[tr. Pope (1715-20)]

Young men are ever of unstable mind;
But when an elder interferes, he views
Future and past together, and insures
The compact, to both parties, uninfringed.
[tr. Cowper (1791), ll. 124-27]

For the minds of younger men are ever fluctuating; but for those among whom a senior is present, he looks at the same time both backward and forward, in order that the best results may accrue to both parties.
[tr. Buckley (1860)]

For young men's spirits are too quickly stirr'd;
But in the councils check'd by rev'rend age,
Alike are weigh'd the future and the past,
And for all int'rests due provision made.
[tr. Derby (1864), ll. 130-34]

Young men's minds are light as air, but when an old man comes he looks before and after, deeming that which shall be fairest upon both sides.
[tr. Butler (1898)]

Ever unstable are the hearts of the young; but in whatsoever an old man taketh part, he looketh both before and after, that the issue may be far the best for either side.
[tr. Murray (1924), #95]

The minds of the younger men are always flighty,
but let an old man stand his ground among them,
one who can see the days behind, the days ahead --
that is the best hope for peace, for both our armies.
[tr. Fagles (1990), ll. 131-34]

Always in fact do the spirits in younger men flutter unsteady;
but with an elder among them, at once the before and the after
he can observe, so that things will become far better for both sides.
[tr. Merrill (2007), ll. 108-110]
Added on 26-Aug-20 | Last updated 24-Nov-20
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She floated away on the riptide of dementia, ultimately a speck on the horizon, waving for as long as she could to her deeply confused children onshore.

Anne Lamott (b. 1954) American novelist and non-fiction writer
Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith, “Mom, Interrupted” (2007)
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On her mother's Alzheimer's Disease.
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So oft as I with state of present time
The image of the antique world compare,
Whereas man’s age was in his freshest prime,
And the first blossom of faire vertue bare,
Such oddes I find twixt those and these which arc,
As that, through long continuance of his course,
Me seemes the world is runne quite out of square
From the first point of his appointed source;
And being once amiss, grows daily worse and worse: […]

For that which all men then did vertue call,
Is now cald vice; and that which vice was hight,
Is now hight vertue, and so us’d of all;
Right now is wrong, and wrong that was is right.

Edmund Spenser (c. 1552-1599) English poet
The Faerie Queene, Book 5, Proem, st. 1, 4 (1589-96)
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Beauty is but a lease from nature.

Edward Counsel (fl. 19th C) Australian author, composer
Maxims: Political, Philosophical, and Moral, #541 (2nd ed., 1892)
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It would seem that in youth we sow our wild oats, in old age our tame anecdotes.

Clifton Fadiman (1904-1999) American critic, lecturer, editor
The Little, Brown Book of Anecdotes, Introduction (1985)
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Added on 19-Jun-20 | Last updated 19-Jun-20
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The problem [with beauty] is that it’s like being born rich and getting poorer.

Joan Collins (b. 1933) English actress, author
“50 Is Beautiful,” Playboy (Dec 1983)
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If you go through life trading on your good looks, there’ll come a time when no one wants to trade.

Other Authors and Sources
Lynne Alpern & Esther Blumenfeld, Oh, Lord, I Sound Just Like Mama (1986)
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JUST DISCOURSE: Do not bandy words with your father, nor treat him as a dotard, nor reproach the old man, who has cherished you, with his age.

Aristophanes (c.450-c.388 BC) Athenian comedic playwright
Clouds, ll. 998-999 (423 BC) [tr. Athenian Soc. (1912)]
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Alt. trans.:
  • JUST ΛΟΓΟΣ: "[Learn] not to contradict your father in any thing; nor by calling him Iapetus, to reproach him with the ills of age, by which you were reared in your infancy." [tr. Hickie (1853)]
  • RIGHT LOGIC: "Nor dare to reply when your Father is nigh, nor 'musty old Japhet' to call / In your malice and rage that Sacred Old Age which lovingly cherished your youth." [tr. Rogers (1924)]
Added on 13-May-20 | Last updated 13-May-20
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Beauty is as summer fruits, which are easy to corrupt, and cannot last.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Beauty,” Essays, No. 43 (1625)
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I reject that whole point of view — that animation is a children’s medium. The way people talk about it is, well, hey, it’s a good thing I have kids, because now I get to see this. Well, hey, no, man! You can just go and see it. There’s no other art form that is defined in such a narrow way. It’s narrow-minded, and I can’t wait for it to die.

Brad Bird (b. 1957) American director, animator and screenwriter [Phillip Bradley Bird]
“How Pixar Conquered the Planet,” The Guardian (12 Nov 2004)
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Added on 26-Feb-20 | Last updated 26-Feb-20
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There is no “trick” in being young: it happens to you. But the process of maturing is an art to be learned, an effort to be sustained. By the age of fifty you have made yourself what you are, and if is good, it is better than your youth. If it is bad, it is not because you are older, but because you have not grown.

Marya Mannes (1904-1990) American author and critic [pen name "Sec"]
More in Anger: Some Opinions, Uncensored and Unteleprompted (1958)
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There are books one needs maturity to enjoy, just as there are books an adult can come on too late to savor.

Phyllis McGinley (1905-1978) American author, poet
“The Consolations of Illiteracy,” Saturday Review (1 Aug 1953)
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Reprinted in The Province of the Heart (1959).
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At twenty the will rules; at thirty the intellect; at forty the judgment.

Baltasar Gracián y Morales (1601-1658) Spanish Jesuit priest, writer, philosopher
The Art of Worldly Wisdom [Oráculo Manual y Arte de Prudencia], #298 (1647) [tr. Jacobs (1892)]
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Alt trans.: "When one is twenty, the will reigns; a thirty, the intelligence; at forty, judgment." [tr. Maurer (1992)]
Added on 14-Feb-20 | Last updated 14-Feb-20
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When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

The Bible (14th C BC - 2nd C AD) Christian sacred scripture
1 Corinthians 13:11 [KJV]
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Alt. trans.: "When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways." [NRSV]
Added on 3-Feb-20 | Last updated 3-Feb-20
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At sixteen I was stupid, confused and indecisive. At twenty-five I was wise, self-confident, prepossessing, and assertive. At forty-five I am stupid, confused, insecure, and indecisive. Who would have supposed that maturity is only a short break in adolescence?

Jules Feiffer (b. 1929) American cartoonist, authork, satirist
Cartoon, The Observer (3 Feb 1974)
Added on 14-Oct-19 | Last updated 14-Oct-19
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Youth finds no value in the views it disagrees with, but maturity includes discovering that even an opinion contrary to ours may contain a vein of truth we could profitably assimilate to our own views.

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
Pieces of Eight (1982)
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Added on 27-May-19 | Last updated 27-May-19
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Youth has its romance, and maturity its wisdom, as morning and spring have their freshness, noon and summer their power, night and winter their repose. Each attribute is good in its own season.

Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855) British novelist [pseud. Currer Bell]
Letter to a young admirer at Cambridge (as Currer Bell) (23 May 1850)
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Added on 23-Apr-19 | Last updated 23-Apr-19
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Every human being has paid the earth to grow up. Most people don’t grow up. It’s too damn difficult. What happens is most people get older. That’s the truth of it. They honor their credit cards, they find parking spaces, they marry, they have the nerve to have children, but they don’t grow up. Not really. They grow older. But to grow up costs the earth, the earth. It means you take responsibility for the time you take up, for the space you occupy. It’s serious business. And you find out what it costs us to love and to lose, to dare and to fail. And maybe even more, to succeed. What it costs, in truth.

Maya Angelou (1928-2014) American poet, memoirist, activist [b. Marguerite Ann Johnson]
“Maya Angelou, The Art of Fiction No. 119,” Interview with George Plimpton, The Paris Review (Fall 1990)
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Angelou used the core section (credit cards, parking spaces) a number of times in different interviews.
Added on 26-Oct-18 | Last updated 26-Oct-18
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Colors fade, temples crumble, empires fall, but wise words endure.

Edward Thorndike (1874-1949) American psychologist, educator
(Attributed)
Added on 5-Apr-18 | Last updated 5-Apr-18
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Life is not living, but living in health.

[Vita non est vivere, sed valera vita est.]

Martial (AD c.39-c.103) Spanish Roman poet, satirist, epigrammatist [Marcus Valerius Martialis]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 6, #70 [tr. Ker (1919)]
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Alt. trans.:
  • "It is not life to live, but to be well."
  • "Life's not just being alive, but being well."
  • "Life consists not in living, but in enjoying health." [tr. Bohn (1871)]
  • "Not who love long, but happily, are old." [Anon. (1695)]
  • "Life is only life when we are well." [Hay]
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What do you suppose makes all men look back to the time of childhood with so much regret (if their childhood has been, in any moderate degree, healthy or peaceful)? That rich charm, which the least possession had for us, was in consequence of the poorness of our treasures. That miraculous aspect of the nature around us, was because we had seen little, and knew less. Each increased possession loads us with a new weariness; every piece of new knowledge diminishes the faculty of admiration; and Death is at last appointed to take us from a scene in which, if we were to stay longer, no gift could satisfy us, and no miracle surprise.

John Ruskin (1819-1900) English art critic, painter, writer, social thinker
The Eagle’s Nest, Lecture 5 “The Power of Contentment in Science and Art,” Sec. 82 (22 Feb 1872)
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When one is too old for love, one finds great comfort in good dinners.

Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) American writer, folklorist, anthropologist
Moses, Man of the Mountain, ch. 6 [Mentu] (1939)
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Men are conservatives when they are least vigorous, or when they are most luxurious. They are conservatives, after dinner, or before taking their rest; when they are sick, or aged: in the morning, or when their intellect or their conscience have been aroused, when they hear music, or when they read poetry, they are radicals.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“New England Reformers,” lecture, Church of the Disciples, Amory Hall, Boston (3 Mar 1844)
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Added on 22-Nov-17 | Last updated 22-Nov-17
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Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale
Her infinite variety; other women cloy
The appetites they feed, but she makes hungry
Where most she satisfies.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Antony and Cleopatra, Act 2, sc. 2, l. 271 [Enobarbus] (1607)
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Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) Welsh poet and writer
“Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” (1947)
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First published in Botteghe Oscure (Nov 1951).
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At twenty a man is a Peacock, at thirty a Lion, at forty a Camel, at fifty a Serpent, at sixty a Dog, at seventy an Ape, at eighty nothing.

Baltasar Gracián y Morales (1601-1658) Spanish Jesuit priest, writer, philosopher
The Art of Worldly Wisdom [Oráculo Manual y Arte de Prudencia], #276 (1647) [tr. Jacobs (1892)]
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Added on 23-Oct-17 | Last updated 31-Jan-20
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But though that first love’s impassioned blindness
Has passed away in colder light,
I still have thought of you with kindness,
And shall do, till our last goodnight.
The ever-rolling silent hours
Will bring a time we shall not know,
When our young days of gathering flowers
Will be an hundred years ago.

Thomas Love Peacock (1785-1866) English novelist, satirist, poet, merchant
“Love and Age,” From Gryll Grange (1860)
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I miss what I had in terms of the speed of memory access. If I needed a word or a fact it was already at my fingertips and now it’s like an arthritic and elderly gentleman has to sit up and go down many, many flights of stairs very slowly and go and rummage in dusty drawers. Eventually he will return four days later, normally at about 1:30 in the morning, and I will sit up and go, “Oh yes! ‘Crepuscular.’ That was the word I was looking for.”

Neil Gaiman (b. 1960) British fabulist
“This Much I Know,” The Guardian (5 Aug 2017)
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Added on 11-Sep-17 | Last updated 11-Sep-17
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Leave well — even “pretty well” — alone: that is what I learn as I get old.

Edward FitzGerald (1809-1883) English writer, poet, translator
Letter to W. F. Pollock (7 Dec 1869)
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Added on 21-Aug-17 | Last updated 21-Aug-17
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Everything passes, everything breaks, everything palls, everything gets replaced.

[Tout passe, tout casse, tout lasse, et tout se remplace.]

Other Authors and Sources
French proverb

Sometimes given without the final clause. The second and third clauses are sometimes reversed.
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At fifty, everyone has the face he deserves.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
Notebook, last words (17 Apr 1949)
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See Camus. See also discussion here.
Added on 7-Aug-17 | Last updated 25-Aug-20
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Each Morn a thousand Roses brings, you say;
Yes, but where leaves the Rose of Yesterday?

Omar Khayyám (1048-1123) Persian poet, mathematician, philosopher, astronomer
Rubaiyat, 9 [tr. FitzGerald, 5th Ed. (1889)]
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You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood, back home to romantic love, back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame, back home to exile, to escape to Europe and some foreign land, back home to lyricism, to singing just for singing’s sake, back home to aestheticism, to one’s youthful idea of “the artist” and the all-sufficiency of “art” and “beauty” and “love”, back home to the ivory tower, back home to places in the country, to the cottage in Bermuda, away from all the strife and conflict of the world, back home to the father you have lost and have been looking for, back home to someone who can help you, save you, ease the burden for you, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time — back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.

Thomas Wolfe (1900-1938) American writer
You Can’t Go Home Again, Book 7 “A Wind Is Rising and the Rivers Flow” (1940)
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Added on 1-Jun-17 | Last updated 12-Jun-17
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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.

Charles Kingsley (1819-1875) English clergyman, historian, essayist, novelist (pseud. "Parson Lot")
“Water Babies,” Song 2, st. 2 (1863)
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It used to be a good hotel, but that proves nothing — I used to be a good boy, for that matter. Both of us have lost character of late years.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
The Innocents Abroad, ch. 57 (1869)
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Forgive us immortals our sins of pride, child. We all age like cheese, growing strong and tasty but also covered in the mould of good intentions gone grey.

Gail Carriger (b. 1976) American archaeologist, author [pen name of Tofa Borregaard]
Imprudence (2016)
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Most men love money and security more, and creation and construction less, as they get older.

John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) English economist
“Clissold” (1927)
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Yet somehow our society must make it right and possible for old people not to fear the young or be deserted by them, for the test of a civilization is the way that it cares for its helpless members.

Pearl S. Buck (1892-1973) American writer
My Several Worlds (1954)
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Old minds are like old horses; you must exercise them if you wish to keep them in working order.

adams-old-minds-old-horses-exercise-wist_info-quote

John Adams (1735-1826) American lawyer, Founding Father, statesman, US President (1797-1801)
Letter to Josiah Quincy III (14 Feb 1825)
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King David and King Solomon
Led merry merry lives,
With many, many lady friends,
And many many wives;
But when old age crept over them —
With many, many qualms! —
King Solomon wrote the Proverbs
And King David wrote the Psalms.

James Ball Naylor (1860-1945) American physician, writer, poet, politician
“King David and King Solomon” (1935)
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The heart never grows better by age; I fear rather worse; always harder. A young liar will be an old one; and a young knave will only be a greater knave as he grows older.

Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773) English statesman, wit [Philip Dormer Stanhope]
Letter to his son (17 May 1750)
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Years ago we discovered the exact point, the dead center of middle age. It occurs when you are too young to take up golf and too old to rush up to the net.

Franklin Pierce Adams (1881-1960) American journalist and humorist
Nods and Becks (1944)
Added on 9-Oct-16 | Last updated 9-Oct-16
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Character contributes to beauty. It fortifies a woman as her youth fades. A mode of conduct, a standard of courage, discipline, fortitude and integrity can do a great deal to make a woman beautiful.

Jacqueline Bisset (b. 1944) English actress.
In “Actress with 3 Countries,” Los Angeles Times (16 May 1974)
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If you want to be adored by your peers and have standing ovations wherever you go — live to be over ninety.

George Abbott (1887-1995) American director, producer, dramatist
(Attributed)

Quoted in his obituary in The Times of London (2 Feb 1995)
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I hate that I’ve become one of those old men who visits a cemetery to be with his dead wife. When I was (much) younger I used to ask Kathy what the point would be. A pile of rotting meat and bones that used to be a person isn’t a person anymore; it’s just a pile of rotting meat and bones. The person is gone — off to heaven or hell or wherever or nowhere. You might as well visit a side of beef.

When you get older you realize this is still the case. You just don’t care. It’s what you have.

John Scalzi (b. 1969) American writer
Old Man’s War (2005)
Added on 16-Aug-16 | Last updated 16-Aug-16
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How long do you want to wait until you start enjoying life? When you’re sixty-five you get Social Security, not girls.

Neil Simon (1927-2018) American playwright and screenwriter
Come Blow Your Horn (1961)
Added on 10-Aug-16 | Last updated 10-Aug-16
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Most men make use of the first part of their life to render the last part miserable.

Jean de La Bruyère (1645-1696) French essayist, moralist
Les Caractères, “De l’Homme” (1688)
Added on 20-Jul-16 | Last updated 20-Jul-16
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In youth, the years stretch before one so long that it is hard to realize that they will ever pass, and even in middle age, with the ordinary expectation of life in these days, it is easy to find excuses for delaying what one would like to do but does not want to; but at last a time comes when death must be considered.

W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) English novelist and playwright [William Somerset Maugham]
The Summing Up, ch. 3 (1938)
Added on 22-Jun-16 | Last updated 22-Jun-16
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As one gets older one doesn’t feel quite so strongly any more, one discovers that everything is always going to be exactly the same with different hats on.

Noël Coward (1899-1973) English playwright, actor, wit
Letter (1959)
    (Source)

More frequently paraphrased (as in The Film Daily in 1964): "As one gets older, one discovers everything is going to be exactly the same -- with different hats on."
Added on 16-Jun-16 | Last updated 16-Jun-16
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A truly great book should be read in youth, again in maturity, and once more in old age, as a fine building should be seen by morning light, at noon and by moonlight.

Robertson Davies (1913-1995) Canadian author, editor, publisher
“Too Much, Too Fast” Peterborough Examiner (Canada) (16 Jun 1962)
Added on 2-Jun-16 | Last updated 2-Jun-16
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When young, we trust ourselves too much, and we trust others too little when old. Rashness is the error of youth, timid caution of age.

Charles Caleb "C. C." Colton (1780-1832) English cleric, writer
Lacon: or, Many Things in Few Words, #363 (1820)
Added on 24-May-16 | Last updated 24-May-16
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