Aug 30, 2007

"The subtle thief of youth"

by Anna Laurene Arnett

I tried to enter this on Wednesday, but Google kept telling me the email I gave does not exist, yet they emailed me with it. Figure that out. I’m going to bed. Maybe I can post it tomorrow.

John Milton, in an early sonnet, described time as “the subtle thief of youth.” Yet time always gave generously and often too bountifully when I was young, dragging itself out for one and almost two decades. It took forever to get from one birthday to another, and even longer for Christmas to come again, or school to begin, or school to end, and finding a man I wanted to marry looked like it might take a century.

Then my world began spinning faster and faster, gaining speed with each year, month, week, day, and now with every minute. Even seconds go faster. I remember when it took only two seconds to count, “one chimpanzee, two chimpanzee,” but now, even when I rush, I fall behind two or three seconds out of every ten. I run completely out of day before I finish more than half of the things I’ve planned. If I try to make up for it by staying awake half the night and plugging along, blissfully uninterrupted, I sleep in and miss the upcoming, lovely early morning time.

Time, tide and taxes, they say, wait for no man. And I’m getting caught. Today is the last day I can claim to be only eighty-two, and it’s all but gone. However, I’ve been expecting it long enough in another way I’m surprised that I’ll only be eighty-three when I wake up tomorrow.

Allow me to return to Milton, because parts of it keep clinging to my mind. (I had this memorized in 1972 but Time, the subtle thief of memory, hath stolen . . . .) I’m only going to use the parts that fit me, substituting with impunity. After all, what copyright laws extend back to 1632?

How soon hath Time, the subtle thief of youth,
    Stol’n on his wing my two and eightieth year.
    My hasting days fly on with full career
    But my procrastination hides the truth
Of sought for goals, of writing high and mighty . . .

At this point, my visiting teacher telephoned that she couldn’t come this month, so we talked for an hour or so. Then a daughter-in-law called to remind me I’d promised to go to the temple with her, her daughter, and her son-in-law. Charles said he’d go, too. So we scurried to get ready.

Finally, I’m back to finishing this blog, but so sleepy that all my thoughts play hide-and-seek on the outskirts of the land of Nod. I’ve been trying to paraphrase about outward appearances that camouflage age. Milton doubts he looks mature enough at 22; I only wonder if I act my age. I like the last six lines as he wrote it, however, and it applies to me at any age.

Yet be it less or more, or soon or slow,
It shall be still in strictest measure ev’n
To that same lot, however mean or high,
Toward which Time leads me, and the will of Heav’n;
All is, if I have grace to use it so,
As ever in my great task Master’s eye.


  1. Anna, your keen intellect and sharp wit never fail to uplift and enlighten me. I always look forward to your blogs. They give me pause to think and evaluate where I am in my own life at the time. Thanks!

  2. Anna, you are young at heart and I adore you. I'd like to grow up to be just like you!


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