Larvae are active embryos, which have become specially modified in relation to their habits of life, through the principle of modifications being inherited at corresponding ages
. On this same principle--and bearing in mind, that when organs are reduced in size, either from disuse or selection, it will generally be at that period of life when the being has to provide for its own wants, and bearing in mind how strong is the principle of inheritance--the occurrence of rudimentary organs and their final abortion, present to us no inexplicable difficulties; on the contrary, their presence might have been even anticipated.
Happy people, who enjoy so many living examples of ancient virtue, and have masters ready to instruct them in the wisdom of all former ages! but happiest, beyond all comparison, are those excellent STRULDBRUGS, who, being born exempt from that universal calamity of human nature, have their minds free and disengaged, without the weight and depression of spirits caused by the continual apprehensions of death!" I discovered my admiration that I had not observed any of these illustrious persons at court; the black spot on the forehead being so remarkable a distinction, that I could not have easily overlooked it: and it was impossible that his majesty, a most judicious prince, should not provide himself with a good number of such wise and able counsellors.
"These STRULDBRUGS and I would mutually communicate our observations and memorials, through the course of time; remark the several gradations by which corruption steals into the world, and oppose it in every step, by giving perpetual warning and instruction to mankind; which, added to the strong influence of our own example, would probably prevent that continual degeneracy of human nature so justly complained of in all ages.
I afterwards saw five or six of different ages, the youngest not above two hundred years old, who were brought to me at several times by some of my friends; but although they were told, "that I was a great traveller, and had seen all the world," they had not the least curiosity to ask me a question; only desired "I would give them SLUMSKUDASK," or a token of remembrance; which is a modest way of begging, to avoid the law, that strictly forbids it, because they are provided for by the public, although indeed with a very scanty allowance.
The active moral impulse which Chaucer and Gower lacked, and a consequent direct confronting of the evils of the age, appear vigorously in the group of poems written during the last forty years of the century and known from the title in some of the manuscripts as 'The Vision of William Concerning Piers the Plowman.' From the sixteenth century, at least, until very lately this work, the various versions of which differ greatly, has been supposed to be the single poem of a single author, repeatedly enlarged and revised by him; and ingenious inference has constructed for this supposed author a brief but picturesque biography under the name of William Langland.
In its own age the influence of 'Piers the Plowman' was very great.
THE END OF THE MIDDLE AGES. ABOUT 1350 TO ABOUT 1500
Newton and Laplace need myriads of age and thick-strewn celestial areas.
I shall find in him the Foreworld; in his childhood the Age of Gold, the Apples of Knowledge, the Argonautic Expedition, the calling of Abraham, the building of the Temple, the Advent of Christ, Dark Ages, the Revival of Letters, the Reformation, the discovery of new lands, the opening of new sciences and new regions in man.
The story of my life, in the interval between these two ages
, is a story that can be soon told.
Men of my age flock together; we are birds of a feather, as the old proverb says; and at our meetings the tale of my acquaintance commonly is--I cannot eat, I cannot drink; the pleasures of youth and love are fled away: there was a good time once, but now that is gone, and life is no longer life.
And this is a question which I should like to ask of you who have arrived at that time which the poets call the `threshold of old age'--Is life harder towards the end, or what report do you give of it?