Cherish now the fleeting years,
the few while you are here,
don’t mourn for them with tears.
The past will disappear
like bourbon you have drunk. The olden
days will not come back,
of catchers in the rye like Holden
there’ll always be a lack.
Think of the future, look ahead,
and don’t fall off the cliff.
Say only “yes” to it instead
of saying, only if.”
Inspired by the death of J.D. Salinger, on whom Charles McGrath wrote an obituary in the NYT on January 29, 2010:
Never much of a student, Mr. Salinger, then known as Sonny, attended the progressive McBurney School on the Upper West Side. (He told the admissions office his interests were dramatics and tropical fish.) But he flunked out after two years and in 1934 was packed off to Valley Forge Military Academy, in Wayne, Pa., which became the model for Holden’s Pencey Prep. Like Holden, Mr. Salinger was the manager of the school fencing team, and he also became the literary editor of the school yearbook, Crossed Swords, and wrote a school song that was either a heartfelt pastiche of 19th-century sentiment or else a masterpiece of irony:
Hide not thy tears on this last day
Your sorrow has no shame;
To march no more midst lines of gray;
No longer play the game.
Four years have passed in joyful ways — Wouldst stay those old times dear?
Then cherish now these fleeting days,
The few while you are here.
The title of Salinger’s most famous book, “Catcher in the Rye,’ has the following explanation:
Holden finally decides to surreptitiously return home to see his younger sister Phoebe. During a short conversation with her Holden reveals the meaning of the novel's title. The "Catcher in the Rye" idea is based on a misreading of a line in the song "Comin' Thro' the Rye," by Robert Burns, which Holden heard a young boy singing. The young boy instead substituted "When a body meet a body, comin' thro' the rye" for "When a body catch a body, comin' thro' the rye." Holden imagines children playing a game in a field of rye near a cliff, and it is his role to protect the children by catching anyone who comes too near to the edge. Such a job, he says, would make him truly happy. Holden tells Phoebe he has always wanted to be a Catcher in the Rye (symbolically, a rescuer of children). Holden tells her his plan to run away, to live far away from everybody, and Phoebe offers him her Christmas money. Holden flees the house when his parents arrive home."