A French Sailor, 1897, by Christian Krohg (Norwegian, 1852–1925)
Courtesy of Nasjonalmuseet, Norway

This is an updated version of an article that was originally published on 22nd April 2023 under the ttile ‘Sailors and retirement: Some words of wisdom’.

Retirement can be tough on body and spirit. To be cut off from the workaday world and former colleagues can be jarring. It can usher in a period of loneliness, stress and anxiety. For some folks, however, to retire is to embark on a new voyage in calmer seas. It is a time of personal freedom, peace and self-fulfillment. The following quotes, I hope, will serve to inspire maritime professionals who are nearing retirement age or have already retired.

Then, when the mellowing years have made thee man,
No more shall mariner sail, nor pine-tree bark
Ply traffic on the sea…

— Virgil (70-19 BCE), “Eclogue IV”, The Eclogues

O blest retirement, friend to life’s decline,
Retreats from care that never must be mine,
How happy he who crowns, in shades like these
A youth of labour with an age of ease;

— Oliver Goldsmith, “The Deserted Village” (1770)

The mountain-path of Action is no longer a path for me; my future hope pauses with my present happiness in the shadowed valley of Repose.

— Wilkie Collins, Basil (1852)

Very shortly I intend to retire—to live in the country, to travel occasionally to see the world—also, it may be, to cultivate my garden—with particular attention to improving the strain of vegetable marrows.

Hercule Poirot in Agatha Chistie’s The Labours of Hercules (1947)


An old sailor snapped in Jackson Square, New Orleans, 1935
Photo by Ben Shahn (1898-1969)
Courtesy of The New York Public Library

Make then an end of getting: know, the more
Your wealth, the less the risk of being poor;
And, having gained the object of your quest,
Begin to slack your efforts and take rest;

— Horace, The Satires, Epistles, and Art of Poetry of Horace, translated by John Conington (1874)


Work almost always has a double aspect: it is a bondage, a wearisome drudgery; but it is also a source of interest, a steadying element, a factor that helps to integrate the worker with society. Retirement may be looked upon either as a prolonged holiday or as a rejection, a being thrown on to the scrap-heap.

— Simone de Beauvoir, The Coming of Age (1970)


People often say to themselves in life that they should avoid a variety of occupation, and, more particularly, be the less willing to enter upon new work the older they grow. But it is easy to talk, easy to give advice to oneself and others. To grow old is itself to enter upon a new business; all the circumstances change, and a man must either cease acting altogether, or willingly and consciously take over the new role.

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Maxims and Reflections, translated by Bailey Saunders (1906)

Velho Mariheiro (Old Sailor), no date
Oil on canvas
Bertha Worms (French-born Brazilian, 1868–1937)
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Work, play – at sixty our powers and tastes are what they were at seventeen. Old men in the bad old days used to renounce, retire, take to religion, spend their time reading, thinking – thinking!

— Aldous Huxley, Brave New World (1932)


An elegant sufficiency, content,
Retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books,
Ease and alternate labour, useful life,
Progressive virtue, and approving Heaven.

— James Thomson, from “Spring”, The Seasons (1792)

When we cease from activity, or follow a thought to its conclusion, it’s a kind of death. And it doesn’t harm us. Think about your life: childhood, boyhood, youth, old age. Every transformation a kind of dying. Was that so terrible?

Think about life with your grandfather, your mother, your
adopted father. Realize how many other deaths and transformations and endings there have been and ask yourself: Was that so terrible?

Then neither will the close of your life be—its ending and transformation.

— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, translated by Gregory Hays (2002)



Beautiful music for retired sailors. Listen & download:

the piano of the old seaman

~ Barista Uno

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