The poem, “The Panic of Growing Older”, by Lenrie Peters is self-explanatory. It highlights the fear inherent in man when he suddenly realizes the coming of age, especially when the steam of youth has frittered. The fear is fast in spreading like wild harmattan fire; this is succinctly captured in the first stanza of the poem. “The panic of growing older spreads fluttering wings from year to year”.
In other words, growth, in age, is not a fixed factor. It spreads all through and goes on from year to year till the end. At the age of “twenty”, hope is rising and the blood is hot. The man is full of power and prospects of great achievement. This rolls on to the age of “thirty” and if there is nothing to show, “a sudden throb of pain emanates”. That is to say, as one progresses in age, the vibrance to attempt risks for success begins to diminish, in line with the natural law of diminishing returns.
From this period onwards, if not much has been achieved, it begins to have a negative ripple effect as subsequent efforts tend to be trailed by failures, hence the poet puts it rightly thus, “copybook bisected with red ink and failures, nothing to show the world.” Granted that the individual may have “three children” expectedly, of what use will it be to have them and cannot fend for them? Again, the bible reckons seventy years-three scores and ten for mankind. If one spends these years without any success, of what benefit is that to the world and humanity? Much as everyone is hopeful of success, yet “hope is not a grain of sand”, the poet argues, one has to put hope into good work to achieve success because delay is dangerous. Time is fast approaching when the human being will no longer have that inner satisfaction; therefore, whatever has to be done to better one’s life must start early in one’s life because one must search for the black goat in the daytime, for in darkness, it will be hard to find. We must make hay while the sun shines because a stitch in time saves nine. Who wants to cry, had I known?