Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made
–Robert Browning, “Rabbi Ben Ezra,” 1864
In 1980, John Lennon, just before he was killed at the age of 40,
rediscovered these words, simplified them, and set them to music
after Yoko Ono had done the same for another classic poem,
Elizabeth Barret Browning’s “Let Me Count the Ways.”
Here is Mary Chapin Carpenter singing the draft of a song she makes her own.
The song was never recorded in the way Lennon and Ono envisioned it,
as a wedding “standard” played with horns.
But the music still lives, partly because the words of Browning still live.
Like Lennon, I have returned to Browning’s words.
“Grow old along with me
The best is yet to be.”
They could be the theme song of “jubilacion,” the theme we’ve been exploring together in this space.
Some words live long after they were written.
One of the lifelong benefits of being a English teacher is that
a few beautiful texts, sometimes known as purple passages, have wrapped themselves around my soul
like vines around a tree trunk.
Rabbi Ben Ezra, the speaker in Browning’s poem,
Our youthful selves can relax in the realization that Divine providence inevitably will take us
into a paradoxical design for our lives,
redeeming even our failures.
That blessed assurance evades us sometimes, but great poets, like the two Brownings (both Robert and Elizabeth)
can speak about age from the best perspective, that of Love.
I am collecting words to savor as I enter older age.
Can you help?
The online world is full of quotation sites,
but the quotes I love best come from people’s lives.
What words from any story, song, or other source, seem strong enough to enter older age? Which ones do you hang on the walls of your home? Which ones decorate your heart?