As a mother who dies in travail--
Who closes her eyes in death,
And sinks in the sleep that is long and deep,
With her babe's first wailing breath,
In the hush of the midnight watches,
So the old year passed away,
And the new was born, and was hailed this morn,
As the "Happy New Year Day."
The day when our eyes look backward,
To see what our hands have done,
Through the hours of gold that the dead year told,
Like the beads of a pious Nun--
When we shut up the blotted ledger,
With its record of joy and grief,
Of losses and gains, and pleasures and pains,
And turn to the new white leaf.
We hoped, we planned, and we promised,
When the year that is dead was young:
But our hopes are like leaves that are withered,
And the year like a song that is sung.
We planned out some wonderful project,
That should bring to us riches and fame:
Hour by hour, day by day, our plans fell away,
And our project was only a name.
We promised that life should be better,
As the sphere of our labors grew broad,
That "those things behind" should pass from the mind,
As we reached for the prize of our God.
But alas, for the promises given!
Lo, what were our good resolves worth?
They were lost to our sight, and we strayed from the light,
And worshiped the poor things of earth.
And so while we builded our castles,
With turrets of sapphire and gold,
Till they glowed in the sun, the months one by one,
Slipped away, and the year grew old--
Grew feeble and old and departed
In the shadows and gloom of the night;
And some said 'twas a year full of sorrow,
And some, 'twas a year of delight.
Some, sitting in darkness and weeping,
Sob, "Oh, but the year was so long!"
And some, full of cheer, say the beautiful year
Was only one verse of a song.
To some it brought gladness and pleasure,
To others but sorrow and gloom.
It gave one the sweet orange blossoms,
Another, the dust of the tomb.
There are mothers to-day who are sitting,
With arms that are aching to hold
The small form of grace, and the dear little face,
And the head with its crown of spun gold;
And they think of the last happy New Year,
And the voice that made music all day,
And, sitting alone in the silence, they moan,
For the babe that is hidden away.
There are maidens, in love-letters, reading
The story so old and so new;
And their happy hearts beat, in a rythm so sweet,
As they read of the love strong and true;
And they think that of all the glad New Years,
There was never another so glad;
And they heed not the wail of the mother, so pale,
Who thinks the day dreary and sad.
There are some leaning over the coffin
Of a hope that went out with the year;
And their sad eyes are dry, and the lips white that cry,
"The hope of a life-time lies here."
God pity and comfort such mourners,
For God alone knoweth the pain
Of these suffering hearts, when a dear hope departs,
And is buried to rise not again.
It is sad to lean over a lov'd one,
And cover the face with a pall,
But who mourns, with bowed head, o'er a hope that is dead,
Has the bitterest sorrow of all.
God grant that this New Year may bring them,
Some other hope, fully as sweet;
May it cull the bright flowers from happiness' bowers,
And cast them in wreaths at their feet.
Despair and delight walk together;
The sunshine falls over the tomb;
And close by the weary, whose lives are all dreary,
Walk those who are crowned with earth's bloom.
Some wearing the laurels of glory,
And flushed with the glow of success,
May their wreaths never pale, or their honors grow stale,
Or their hopes or their happiness less.
Oh wonderful year that has left us!
Full of tragedy, sorrow and change,
Was there ever another so fateful,
Was there ever another so strange?
Great hearts that were throbbing last New Year
Are food for the grave-worms to-day,
And lips whose least word a whole nation heard,
Are nothing but cold, silent clay.
There was one who was crowned with the Fern Leaves,
Whose ringing tones, full of good cheer,
Lightened hearts that were sad, and made weary ones glad,
On many a weary New Year.
There was one double-dowered by heaven,
Twice gifted and favored by God,
REID, whose brush, and whose pen, made him king among men,--
He, too, lieth under the sod.
And another, the hero of battles,
Before whom the enemy fled
In alarm and dismay, while he won the day,
MEAD,--warrior and hero, is dead.
There was one who climbed up the steep ladder,
Step by step, on rounds that he made;
And carved out his name, on the summit of Fame,
In letters that never will fade.
He struggled for knowledge and riches,
Position and glory, and won.
But, reaching too far, like a child for a star,
He fell, with the words, "It is done!"
It is done, all the climbing and toiling;
It is done, all the worry and strife,
All the bitter and sweet, th' success and defeat,--
It is done, the great drama of life.
It is done, all the year could do for us,
Its mixture of shadow and sun,
Its smiles and its tears, its hopes and its fears,
Its labors and duties, all done.
We stand face to face with the New Year,
Nor know what it hides from our sight;
God grant that it be kind to you, and to me,
That it lead us in ways that are light.
The bells in the steeples are joyful,
The children are shouting in glee,
There is mirth and good cheer in the happy New Year--
All hail to young '73!
Come out of the shadows, ye mourners!
And drop, for this one day at least,
Your mantles of woe, and let us all go
And take part in the revel and feast.
Let us laugh like gay children together,
Forgetting we ever shed tears--
Forgetting the losses, the sorrows and crosses
That came to our lives with the years--
Remembering only the perfume,
The beauty, the bloom, and the sun,
Let us talk of the New Years departed,
And call this the happiest one.
January 1st, 1873.
Shells by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Milwaukee: Hauser & Storey, 1873.
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