Three-Score Years and Ten
4-22-10

Written by Twain on his 70th Birthday

"Three score years and ten! It is the scriptural statute of limitations. After that you owe no active duties; for you the strenuous life is over. you are a time expired man, to use Kipling's military phrase. You have served your terms well or less well, and you are mustered out. You are become an honorary member of the republic, you are emancipated, compulsions are not for you, nor any bugle call but 'Lights out.' You pay the timeworn duty bills, if you choose, or decline if you prefer-and without prejudice, for they are not legally collectable.

"The previous engagement plea which in forty years has cost you so many twinges, you can lay aside forever; on this side of the grave you will never need it again. If you shrink at the thought of night, and winter, and the late home coming from the banquet and the lights, and the laughter, through the deserted street--a desolation which would not remind now, as for a generation it did, that your friends are sleeping and you must creep in a-tip-toe and not disturb them, but would only remind you that you need not tiptoe--you can never disturb them more.

"If you shrink at the thought of these things you need only reply: 'Your invitation honors me and pleases me because you still keep me in your remembrance, but I am 70--70--and would nestle in the chimney corner, and smoke my pipe, and read my book, and take my rest, wishing you well in all affection, and that when you in your turn shall arrive at pier No. 70 you may step aboard your waiting ship with a reconciled spirit and lay your course toward the sinking sun with a contented heart.'"








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