Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
New Year’s Morning (Excerpt)
by Helen Hunt Jackson
Always a night from old to new! Night and the healing balm of sleep! Each morn is New Year’s morn come true, Morn of a festival to keep. All nights are sacred nights to make Confession and resolve and prayer; All days are sacred days to wake New gladness in the sunny air. Only a night from old to new; Only a sleep from night to morn. The new is but the old come true; Each sunrise sees a new year born.
The Old Year
John Clare (1793 – 1864)
The Old Year’s gone away ..To nothingness and night: We cannot find him all the day .Nor hear him in the night: He left no footstep, mark or place . .In either shade or sun: The last year he’d a neighbour’s face, . .In this he’s known by none.
All nothing everywhere: . .Mists we on mornings see Have more of substance when they’re here . .And more of form than he. He was a friend by every fire, . .In every cot and hall– A guest to every heart’s desire, . .And now he’s nought at all.
Old papers thrown away, . .Old garments cast aside, The talk of yesterday, . .Are things identified; But time once torn away . .No voices can recall: The eve of New Year’s Day . .Left the Old Year lost to all.
It likes me well—December’s breath, Although its kiss be cold, Nor yet the year is sealed in death, ‘Tis only growing old.
Nor yet the brooks have ceased to run, The rivers freely flow, And over flowerless fields the sun Still wreathes a roseate glow.
In stranded boats the children creep To wait the coming tide, And watch the foaming breakers leap Upon the meadow’s side.
The year is dying, ay, is dead, But yet December’s breath A glory and a glow can shed Irradiating death.
by Henry G. Hewlett
An old man’s life, dim, colorless and cold, Is like the earth and sky December shows. The barest joys of sense are all he knows: Hope that erewhile made their fruition bold, Now soars beyond. If one sun-glint of gold, Rifts in the dense grey firmament disclose, Earth has enough. ‘Mid purple mist up-throws The birch her silver; the larch may hold With fragile needles yet its amber cone, Tho’ other trees be dark: the pine alone, Like memory, lingers green, till over all, Death-like, the snow doth cast its gentle pall. Child-month and Mother-year in death are one: The winds of midnight moan memorial.
South of the Line, inland from far Durban, A mouldering soldier lies—your countryman. Awry and doubled up are his gray bones, And on the breeze his puzzled phantom moans Nightly to clear Canopus: “I would know By whom and when the All-Earth-gladdening Law Of Peace, brought in by that Man Crucified, Was ruled to be inept, and set aside?
And what of logic or of truth appears In tacking ‘Anno Domini’ to the years? Near twenty-hundred livened thus have hied, But tarries yet the Cause for which He died.
…This world is wild as an old wives’ tale, And strange the plain things are, The earth is enough and the air is enough For our wonder and our war; But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings And our peace is put in impossible things Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings Round an incredible star.
To an open house in the evening Home shall men come, To an older place than Eden And a taller town than Rome. To the end of the way of the wandering star, To the things that cannot be and that are, To the place where God was homeless And all men are at home.
The Burning Babe
By Robert Southwell
As I in hoary winter’s night stood shivering in the snow, Surprised I was with sudden heat which made my heart to glow; And lifting up a fearful eye to view what fire was near, A pretty Babe all burning bright did in the air appear; Who, scorched with excessive heat, such floods of tears did shed As though his floods should quench his flames which with his tears were fed. ‘Alas!’ quoth he, ‘but newly born, in fiery heats I fry, Yet none approach to warm their hearts or feel my fire but I. My faultless breast the furnace is, the fuel wounding thorns, Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke, the ashes shames and scorns; The fuel Justice layeth on, and Mercy blows the coals, The metal in this furnace wrought are men’s defiled souls, For which, as now on fire I am to work them to their good, So will I melt into a bath, to wash them in my blood.’ With this he vanished out of sight, and swiftly shrunk away, And straight I called unto mind that it was Christmas day.
Old Christmas card photos show us how we’ve aged, reminding us that, though time may curve in Einstein’s physics, in our small life it is a straight line to white hair and bifocals.
Try to Waken and Greet the World Once Again
by James Wright (1927 – 1980)
In a pine tree, A few yards away from my window sill, A brilliant blue jay is springing up and down, up and down, On a branch. I laugh, as I see him abandon himself To entire delight, for he knows as well as I do That the branch will not break.
The House of Hospitalities
by Thomas Hardy (1840 – 1928)
Here we broached the Christmas barrel, Pushed up the charred log-ends; Here we sang the Christmas carol, And called in friends.
Time has tired me since we met here When the folk now dead were young. Since the viands were outset here And quaint songs sung.
And the worm has bored the viol That used to lead the tune, Rust eaten out the dial That struck night’s noon.
Now no Christmas brings in neighbours, And the New Year comes unlit; Where we sang the mole now labours, And spiders knit.
Yet at midnight if here walking, When the moon sheets wall and tree, I see forms of old time talking, Who smile on me.
You think winter will never end, and then, when you don’t expect it, when you have almost forgotten it, warmth comes and a different light.
To Know The Dark
by Wendell Berry
To go in the dark with a light is to know the light. To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight, and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings, and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.
A Winter Bluejay
by Sara Teasdale
Crisply the bright snow whispered, Crunching beneath our feet; Behind us as we walked along the parkway, Our shadows danced, Fantastic shapes in vivid blue. Across the lake the skaters Flew to and fro, With sharp turns weaving A frail invisible net. In ecstasy the earth Drank the silver sunlight; In ecstasy the skaters Drank the wine of speed; In ecstasy we laughed Drinking the wine of love. Had not the music of our joy Sounded its highest note? But no, For suddenly, with lifted eyes you said, “Oh look!” There, on the black bough of a snow flecked maple, Fearless and gay as our love, A bluejay cocked his crest! Oh who can tell the range of joy Or set the bounds of beauty?
If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.
by Louise Imogen Guiney
I: THE MOTOR: 1905
From hedgerows where aromas fain would be
New volleyed odours execrably arise;
The flocks, with hell-smoke in their patient eyes,
Into the ditch from bawling ruin flee:
Spindrift of one abominated sea
Along all roads in wrecking fury flies
Till on young strangled leaf, on bloom that dies,
In this far plot it writes a rune for me.
Vast intimate tyranny! Nature dispossessed
Helplessly hates thee, whose symbolic flare
Lights up (with what reiterance unblest!)
Entrails of horror in a world thought fair.
False God of pastime thou, vampire of rest,
Augur of what pollution, what despair?
Guiney’s old English verse is as thick as the carbon black from exhaust of early automobiles on London’s cobble stone streets, yet it is remarkably clairvoyant of what will unfold with the consequences of fossil fuel consumption. The internal combustion engine was invented in a series of breakthroughs beginning around 1870. Ford’s Model T wasn’t rolled out until 1908. But Guiney’s poem of 1905 already is dreading the despotic hold that automobiles will have on the 20th century. No single thing has caused more ecological destruction than the endless applications that internal combustion engines have caused, enabling humanity’s zeal to make money from natural resources. Internal combustion engines made it possible for people to travel to places they could never have otherwise managed to travel and live in places they could never have managed to live. The internal combustion engine has made resource extraction and exploitation possible at levels never imagined 100 years ago.
I particularly love her expression – vampire of rest. It sums up the feeling I get driving to work with endless pressure from middle aged and older men in mostly pickups, aggressively riding my bumper, wanting to drive 20 miles over the speed limit, and acting like they, and only they have a right to the road. I have coined a new phrase for them – Frustrated Older Republican Drivers – (though I am sure there are Democrats doing the same) driving mostly Ford F150s in which they are angrily ensconced. What is driving this anger? I suspect it is a frustration stemming from a nagging realization that a lifestyle they have worked so hard to create is not sustainable in the future. We have built cities and infrastructure designed for our past, not our future. Ford is aggressively marketing an all electric replacement for the Ford F150 that is impractical, range limited, excessively expensive, dangerously heavy and bound to fail. It is a marketing statement, not a transformational vehicle for the future. If America is going to get serious about climate change we are going to have to adapt and give up our obsession with large vehicles. And we all are going to have to get comfortable with that change voluntarily or get carbon taxed into it. Change makes most old men, even me, grumpy.
By Louise Imogen Guiney
You that are dear, O you above the rest! Forgive him his evasive moods and cold; The absence that belied him oft of old, The war upon sad speech, the desperate jest, And pity’s wildest gush but half-confessed, Forgive him! Let your gentle memories hold Some written word once tender and once bold, Or service done shamefacedly at best, Whereby to judge him. All his days he spent, Like one who with an angel wrestled well, O’ermastering Love with show of light disdain; And whatso’er your spirits underwent, He, wounded for you, worked no miracle To make his heart’s allegiance wholly plain.