The Frisky Youth of the World

— There is no end to the tricks that are played on us by the association of ideas. One of these is the tendency we all have to think of ancient times as populated by ancient men. Who ever comes to feel as if there were little boys in the year 3000 B. C., or, being there, as if they played tag ? There is something in those big, imposing dates of antiquity that seems to draw an awful pall over the mind, covering in its shadow every idea related with it. But I like to resist this; perhaps with no more admirable motive than the vague feeling which used to excite, in my boyhood’s mind, a desire to explode something in the midst of any peculiarly solemn conclave of my elders. Or, perhaps (to give the boy in me his due) it was, and is, a healthy protest against unnecessary awfulness. When my forbears have seemed to say to me, “ Why this unseemly levity ? ” my heart hath replied, “ Why this equally unseemly and far more disagreeable solemnity ? ”

I like to bethink me, therefore, that there is no need of taking the ancient times too seriously. The Past was once only a commonplace urchin of a Present. The year 3000 B. C. knew how to kick up its heels as well as this day of grace. No doubt the Grand High Cockleorum of the court of Thothmes IV. was wont to speak of his monarch privately as old Thotty. Tiglath Pileser was of course subject to trivial needs even as modern men, and probably had to have buttons sewed on. The chief architect of the Great Pyramid very likely winked, and made demotic and idiotic (or, in case he happened to be an upper priest, high-erratic) puns. “ Dost thou think, because thou art ” modern, there never used to be any “cakes and ale ? Yes, by Saint Anne ; and ginger ” was “ hot i’ the mouth, too.”