Friedrich Nietzsche, The Wanderer and His Shadow (Der Wanderer und sein Schatten).

The Wanderer and his Shadow, the second supplement to Human, All Too Human, first published in 1880.


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Previous Section   269. THE AGES OF LIFE   Next Section

The Ages of Life.  The comparison of the four ages of life with the four seasons of the year is a venerable piece of folly.  Neither the first twenty nor the last twenty years of a life correspond to a season of the year, assuming that we are not satisfied with drawing a parallel between white hair and snow and similar colour analogies.  The first twenty years are a preparation for life in general, for the whole year of life, a sort of long New Year's Day.  The last twenty review, assimilate, bring into union and harmony all that has been experienced till then: as, in a small degree, we do on every New Year's Eve with the whole past year.  But in between there really lies an interval which suggests a comparison with the seasons — the time from the twentieth to the fiftieth year (to speak here of decades in the lump, while it is an understood thing that everyone must refine for himself these rough outlines).  Those three decades correspond to three seasons: summer, spring, and autumn.  Winter human life has none, unless we like to call the (unfortunately) often intervening hard, cold, lonely, hopeless, unfruitful periods of disease the winters of man.  The twenties, hot, oppressive, stormy, impetuous, exhausting years, when we praise the day in the evening, when it is over, as we wipe the sweat from our foreheads — years in which work seems to us cruel but necessary — these twenties are the summer of life.  The thirties, on the other hand, are its spring time, with the air now too warm, now too cold, ever restless and stimulating, bubbling sap, bloom of leaves, fragrance of buds everywhere, many delightful mornings and evenings, work to which the song of birds awakens us, a true work of the heart, a kind of joy in our own robustness, strengthened by the savour of hopeful anticipation.  Lastly the forties, mysterious like all that is stationary, like a high, broad plateau, traversed by a fresh breeze, with a clear, cloudless sky above it, which always has the same gentle look all day and half the night — the time of harvest and cordial gaiety — that is the autumn of life.  

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