Purely by happenstance, my trip included a visit to the university from which I graduated 40 years ago this year: a campus located on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, in Santa Barbara. I had no madeleine moment. However, I did idly muse: Which is better (or worse): to say that 40 years have passed or to say that four decades have passed?
Arriving in Lo-yang Again
Those years, I was a green-youthed wanderer;
today I come again, a white-haired old man.
From those years to today makes one whole lifetime,
and in between, how many things have had their day and gone!
Shao Yung (1011-1077) (translated by Burton Watson), in Burton Watson, The Columbia Book of Chinese Poetry: From Early Times to the Thirteenth Century (Columbia University Press 1984), page 335.
Robert Fowler (1853-1926), "Knaresborough"
Four decades, forty years: six of one, half a dozen of the other. Time is what it is. But the mere fact of that much distance is enough to give one pause. Yet there are no grounds for regret or lamentation. After all, I am here to see that distance: something that ought not to be taken for granted. Gratitude is the appropriate response.
Still, passing through that changed yet unchanged place, I did wonder about a now-vanished young wight, all melancholy and expectation. What has become of him?
Parthenophil is lost, and I would see him;
For he is like to something I remember
A great while since, a long, long time ago.
John Ford, The Lover's Melancholy, Act IV, Scene 3 (1628), in Iris Origo, The Vagabond Path (Chatto & Windus 1972), page 239.
William MacGeorge (1861-1931), "A Summer Day on the Solway"
When I arrived home yesterday, I could smell the lilacs (white and pale purple) in the garden as I got out of the car. On my walk this afternoon, I discovered that, while I was away, spring arrived here in earnest. "Yet still the unresting castles thresh/In fullgrown thickness every May./Last year is dead, they seem to say,/Begin afresh, afresh, afresh." Forty years, four decades. Gone. Ever-present.
Ah Sun-flower! weary of time,
Who countest the steps of the Sun:
Seeking after that sweet golden clime
Where the traveller's journey is done.
Where the Youth pined away with desire,
And the pale Virgin shrouded in snow
Arise from their graves and aspire,
Where my Sun-flower wishes to go.
William Blake, Songs of Innocence and of Experience (1789), in David Erdman (editor), The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake (University of California Press 1982).
Fred Stead (1863-1940), "River at Bingley, Yorkshire"