Twenty years coming,
Twenty years good,
Twenty years declining, and
Twenty years useless.

Note: This week’s proverb looks at the stages of life. A person will spend the first score of life coming of age. When one comes to that magic age of 21, one begins the second score of life. It is the prime of your life. It is marked by the mystical number 21, the multiple of two powerful prime numbers, the three of the trinity and the seven days of creation. Some say that life begins at forty. That is not true here. At forty, you begin your third score, an epoch of decline. By sixty, you will have declined to the point of being useless. You will also see an alternative form of this bleak proverb:


Fiche bliain ag fás. Twenty years growing.
Fiche bliain faoi bhláth. Twenty years in bloom.
Fiche bliain ag cromadh. Twenty years declining.
Fiche bliain gur cuma ann nó as. Twenty years when it doesn’t matter
whether you’re there or not.

One of the classics of Irish literature takes its title form this alternative proverb, Fiche bliain ag fás. It is a memoir written in 1933 by Muiris Ó Súilleabháin. He was born on Great Blasket Island in 1902. Ó Súilleabháin tells a touching story of life in the islands. It was translated into English as Twenty Years A-Growing the same year it was published in Irish. It was later published into many other languages and has been acclaimed by international critics as a jewel of Irish culture. Ó Súilleabháin died in Connemara in 1950. We hope you get a chance to read this gem in its original language.