O Youth Eternal

Editor’s note: This essay was published in 1914 by Byrd Spilman Dewey and is one of her last published works. It is an inspiring and thought-provoking look at the New Year and the promises it brings us all. She also muses about life itself and how our own outlook affects how life treats us. She ends with a wonderful insight into the gifts of maturity, a lesson that brings a new insight in the process of progression of years.

On the shores of the Infinite towers the glorious city of achievements. Its slender spires glisten in the morning sunlight – for there is always morning and always Spring. Each mortal who has a spark of the divine fire in his soul has helped to build this city inspired by life’s twin angels of construction – Hope and Love.
As the old year dies the new year is born.
The hour of passing from old to new is one of vigil – of remembrance – of hope. From a dawn sky, gilded by the sun’s first ray, comes the glad new year – a boat sailing wing-and-wing loaded down to the water’s edge with gifts. It speeds us-wards dashing up the spray with its golden prow, leaving in its wake a ruffled track of sparkling light. Turquoise and emerald set in dancing points of gold and silver. Onward, at a merry clip it comes.
Welcome new year! Thy packages are so enfolded in mystery we cannot divine their contents; but we fearlessly receive and unwrap them knowing all to be gifts with a purpose; some will charm us at first glimpse, others set us guessing what they may be – what may be their meaning and mission.
New Year is a re-birth – a fresh beginning. The heart stirs – goes out to its new gifts. Life has yet something to offer. We hold upturned hands – perhaps feel misgivings – tempted to let fall some of the offerings; or, reach joyfully to take those that please the eye; but all are good, whether or not they seem acceptable to finite limitations of understanding.
Life’s joys are cumulative. Maturity is better than immaturity. Young-in-years has only the present, tumultuous and happy though it be. Maturity has both past and present, each supplementing the other – balancing, explaining, reflecting – the present experience, a mirror of what is, reflecting what was, the two blending to make new joy which partakes of both and is more than either. “The tender grace of a day that is dead” is ours again. We laugh, we weep, we glow, responsive to the voice of memory. The bright never fades – the sweet is never lost. Any joy once grasped is our forever. In nightwatches – in twilight musings – memory prompts recollection to search for and bring us all the flowers which in the past have bloomed for us; and they come with all their tender fragrance. Dreams bring them, without waiting memory’s invitation. We awaken from sleep with fingers still tingling from the warm clasp of what was only a dream-hand. It has reached out from the past throbbing with vital magic to claim the unbroken – the unbreakable – tie ‘twixt soul and soul. The darkness is peopled with dream faces, and a radiance – not of earthly light – glorifies the silence. An angel whose name is Youth, is beside the couch, holding in her hand the torch of memory – of vibrant life. Oh, Youth, Youth! In thine other hand is the horn of plenty which ever pours out and is never emptied! Give us again that faith, and that innocent trust, Youth’s sword and shield!
But, says doubt, will not the world rob us of all we possess if we enter the lists armed only with faith and trust?
Nay, why question? The strong man, filled with the conqueror’s pride, armed for victory, stalks the beast of the forest. Aggressive strength is met with cunning, the beast springs out to tear him limb from limb, staining the earth’s brown bosom with his life-blood. The straying infant wanders through the forest of dangers, fearlessly brushing the serpent, the ravaging beast, the prowling marauder. It finally stumbles into the lair of the tigress. Fearless, it reaches out tiny hands in gleeful greeting, approaches the ferocious mother with joyful babblings. Does the beast fall on the youngling to rend and devour? Hear her purring to the fearless innocent! See her curve out the velvet paw of mute invitation, as the human babe nestles down to join the wild cubs in their sheltered nest. Knowing no fear, it passes all dangers guarded by the lion of its own disarming trust. This is life. Attack, and the whole world threatens; trust, and all nature purrs. Then is there nothing in life to fear? Only our own unfaith. If we become as little children, we are safe. ‘Tis only untrusting age, with fear in his heart, which sees danger everywhere, and is there-by conquered. Youth – gentle, gay, and trustful – passes by unharmed, not knowing there are teeth, claws, and venom.
In welcoming the fulfillment of maturity, we lose not the garment of youth. We hold fast, with loving trust, to the joy of living. Youth of the year – youth of life – youth of the heart – trinity of happiness. Everything gilded by life’s sunshine, which is power to love, a happy trust in The Angel of Destiny, a loving tenderness for all created life. And this is the spirit of youth – unfading youth – the guardian angel leading us through life’s mysterious mazes to the draped doorway which opens into that vast region beyond peopled with our loved ones – a country glorified with the radiance of Youth Eternal.

Copyright, 2012, Ginger L. Pedersen and Janet M. DeVries

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