IN THE PROLOGUE to his ribald and comic tale, contained in Geoffrey Chaucer’s brilliant fourteenth-century poem Canterbury Tales, the Reeve observes of “olde men” that
Till we be rotten, can we not be ripe.
We hop away while that the world will pipe.
For in our will there sticketh aye a nail,
To have an hoary head and a green tail.
Or to phrase it another way – as indeed it is phrased elsewhere in the poem – though there be snow on the chimney, there is fire down below.