Still, being mindful of the brevity of our days is, I think, a good idea. If nothing else, it may help us to appreciate the moments as they fly away. Besides, in doing so, we keep ourselves in good company: Su Tung-p'o and A. E. Housman, for instance.
Stanley Spencer, "Lilac and Clematis at Englefield" (1954)
Pear Blossoms by the Eastern Palisade
Pear blossoms pale white, willows deep green --
when willow fluff scatters, falling blossoms will fill the town.
Snowy boughs by the eastern palisade set me pondering --
in a lifetime how many springs do we see?
Su Tung-p'o (1037-1101) (translated by Burton Watson), in Selected Poems of Su Tung-p'o (Copper Canyon Press 1994).
"In a lifetime how many springs do we see?" For some of us, the question is not an idle one. To wit: at a certain age, the number of springs that we have already seen without a doubt exceeds the number of springs that we have yet to see. Simple arithmetic, I'm afraid. But this is not a cause for despair. However, to borrow from Samuel Johnson, it does serve to concentrate the mind wonderfully.
"Wisteria at Englefield" (1955)
Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.
Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.
And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.
A. E. Housman, A Shropshire Lad (1896).
A side-note: on the poetic comparison of snow and blossoms ("snowy boughs by the eastern palisade;" "to see the cherry hung with snow"), please see my previous post on W. H. Davies's "Nailsworth Hill" and Po Chu-i's "Village Night" ("buckwheat blossoms are like snow").
Stanley Spencer, "Garden at Whitehouse, Northern Ireland" (1952)