Lines of poetry bubble into the mouths of the young, and songs fill their hearts with ease. For the aging and the old, these springs trickle. One cannot say they are dried-up completely.
We see eruptions of emotion on the face of a middle-aged husband whose wife falls to cardiac arrest in their vacation home. Likewise, the quiet, pulsatile weeping of an elderly wife whose husband of 60 years has died in his sleep is profound despite the age of the heart that is its source.
The former cracks to hold onto a familiar friend; the latter cries in acknowledgement of not having yet bridged the gulf between the living and the dead. It is a fact that age also has its vigor, but it is a thing of wonder and fear to watch it diminish over time.
Yet more amazing is the sensation that we have as adults and elders in response to youthful passion and obstinacy. The whirr and click of its impulse, headlong and classically tragic in its incessance, seem foreign to us. Were we never nudged by youth over the edge of good judgment?
If so, we still often look at our kids, our students, or the throbbing body of the young with the same superciliousness that the chorus from Sophocles’ Antigone (853-855) has at the point in the drama when the titular hero prepares herself for living entombment:
προβᾶσ᾿ ἐπ᾿ ἔσχατον θράσους
ὑψηλὸν ἐς Δίκας βάθρον
προσέπεσες, ὦ τέκνον, ποδί.
High stepping audacity’s extremes
you’ve stumbled against the pedestal
of Justice, child…
When and why do we lose rapture? When do we come to fear tripping against what is customary, well-ordered, well-balanced?
I ask this because I see in my 12-year old son a burgeoning unbridled urge distinct from the wonder of his early years. He chews down exhortations about the role of authority, about wisdom; he casts his body headlong—rightly fearful of pain and disfigurement but with a bravado that makes me wonder if he really “gets it.” My scientific side knows this is a hormonal upswing, but it’s meaning escapes me.
Antigone is a beauty of youth, daring all in her certainty. Creon earlier in the play asked her pointblank about his decree forbidding Polyneices burial, “Did you know that not doing was forbidden?” (447). Antigone’s response is brief. Of course, she knew.
ᾔδη· τί δ᾿ οὐκ ἔμελλον; ἐμφανῆ γὰρ ἦν.
I knew. Why wouldn’t I? It was well known.
Antigone—like most young men and women—is intensely independent. What she thinks is right must come first. There is no room for compromise, and only after her execution materializes does she reflect on her choices. She is sad (895-96, ὧν λοισθία ᾿γὼ καὶ κάκιστα δὴ μακρῷ//κάτειμι, πρίν μοι μοῖραν ἐξήκειν βίου) but unyielding.
It is, in the end, society’s fault (as represented by Creon with the some questioning of the gods also thrown in). It’s not her fault. (923-928)
…ἐπεί γε δὴ
τὴν δυσσέβειαν εὐσεβοῦσ᾿ ἐκτησάμην.
ἀλλ᾿ εἰ μὲν οὖν τάδ᾿ ἐστὶν ἐν θεοῖς καλά,
παθόντες ἂν ξυγγνοῖμεν ἡμαρτηκότες·
εἰ δ᾿ οἵδ᾿ ἁμαρτάνουσι, μὴ πλείω κακὰ
πάθοιεν ἢ καὶ δρῶσιν ἐκδίκως ἐμέ.
…When really in fact 
acting righteously, I’m charged with impiety.
But if the gods approve these things, I’ll
forgive them for the things I suffer since I am
wrong. But if they are wrong, let them not suffer
worse ills than they do to me unjustly!
When Antigone must die for what she believes, the chorus hopes to cure her independent ferocity. Theban elders mutter their warning about stumbling over the speed bump of justice (quoted above). It suggests to me the same moralizing tone that parents (yes, I’m guilty!) mobilize to educate their children…to indoctrinate and separate them from youth’s recklessness, to teach them wisdom and fear.
Is this, then, the legacy that seniors pass to juniors, fathers to sons, mothers to daughters? Know limits, respect limits, even fear limits.
If this is the lesson we teach the young as we grow frightful in the face of existence’s challenges (a harsher word for growing wise, perhaps), a part of me is happy young men and women tend to ignore the voice of our dotage.
While we can smile at their certain comeuppance, we can—must—respect the foothold of their determination to believe to the bitter end themselves before others.
When we hesitate, the young charge. When we question, the young confirm. When we conciliate, they engage.
 This is an attempt to capture the essence of the Greek particles γε δὴ. Denniston (in The Greek Particles, p.245) describes this combination as an “emphatic limitive.” Another way, “Even if I was acting piously, I am charged with insolence.” Denniston warns, “...γε is one of the subtlest and most elusive of particles, and any classification must necessarily be approximate.” δὴ provides firmer footing but only by half. Again, Denniston (p.204): “The essential meaning [of δὴ] seems clearly to be ‘verily.’”