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The Death of the Old Year

The weary Old Year is dead at last;
His corpse 'mid the ruins of Time is cast,
Where the mouldering wrecks of lost Thought lie,
And the rich-hued blossoms of Passion die
To a withering grass that droops o'er his grave,
The shadowy Titan's refuge cave.
Strange lights from pale moony Memory lie
On the weedy columns beneath its eye;
And strange is the sound of the ghostlike breeze,
In the lingering leaves on the skeleton trees;
And strange is the sound of the falling shower,
When the clouds of dead pain o'er the spirit lower;
Unheard in the home he inhabiteth,
The land where all lost things are gathered by Death.

Alone I reclined in the closing year;
Voice, nor breathing, nor step was near;
And I said in the weariness of my breast:
Weary Old Year, thou art going to rest;
O weary Old Year, I would I might be
One hour alone in thy dying with thee!
Would thou wert a spirit, whose low lament
Might mix with the sighs from my spirit sent;
For I am weary of man and life;
Weary of restless unchanging strife;
Weary of change that is ever changing;
Weary of thought that is ever ranging,
Ever falling in efforts vain,
Fluttering, upspringing from earth again,
Struggling once more through the darkness to wing
That hangs o'er the birthplace of everything,
And choked yet again in the vapour's breast,
Sinking once more to a helpless rest.
I am weary of tears that scarce are dry,
Ere their founts are filled as the cloud goes by;
Weary of feelings where each in the throng
Mocks at the rest as they crowd along;
Where Pride over all, like a god on high,
Sits enshrined in his self-complacency;
Where Selfishness crawls, the snake-demon of ill,
The least suspected where busiest still;
Where all things evil and painful entwine,
And all in their hate and their sorrow are mine:
O weary Old Year, I would I might be
One hour by thy dying, to weep with thee!

Peace, the soul's slumber, was round me shed;
The sleep where thought lives, but its pain is dead;
And my musings led me, a spirit-band,
Through the wide realms of their native land;
Till I stood by the couch of the mighty dying,
A lonely shore in the midnight lying.
He lay as if he had laid him to sleep,
And the stars above him their watch did keep;
And the mournful wind with the dreamy sigh,
The homeless wanderer of the sky,
Was the only attendant whose gentle breath
Soothed him yet on the couch of death;
And the dying waves of the heedless sea
Fell at his feet most listlessly.

But he lay in peace, with his solemn eye
Looking far through the mists of futurity.
A smile gleamed over the death-dew that lay
On his withered cheek as life ebbed away.
A darkness lay on his forehead vast;
But the light of expectancy o'er it was cast,--
A light that shone from the coming day,
Travelling unseen to the East away.
In his cloudy robes that lay shadowing wide,
I stretched myself motionless by his side;
And his eyes with their calm, unimpassioned power,
Soothing my heart like an evening shower,
Led in a spectral, far-billowing train,
The hours of the Past through my spirit again.

There were fears of evil whose stony eyes
Froze joy in its gushing melodies.
Some floated afar on thy tranquil wave,
And the heart looked up from its search for a grave;
While others as guests to the bosom came,
And left its wild children more sorrow, less shame;
For the death-look parts from their chilling brow,
And they bless the heads that before them bow;
And floating away in the far-off gloom.
Thankfulness follows them to their tomb.
There were Hopes that found not a place to rest
Their foot 'mid the rush of all-ocean's breast;
And home to the sickening heart flew back,
But changed into sorrows upon their track;
And through the moan of the darkening sea
Bearing no leaf from the olive-tree.
There were joys that looked forth with their maiden eyes,
And smiled, and were gone, with a sad surprise;
And the Love of the Earthly, whose beauteous form
Beckoned me on through sunshine and storm;
But when the bounding heart sprang high,
Meeting her smile with a speechless sigh,
The arms sunk home with a painful start,
Clasping a vacancy to the heart.

And the voice of the dying I seem to hear
But whether his breathing is in mine ear,
Or the sounds of the breaking billows roll
The lingering accents upon my soul,
I know not; but thus they seem to bear
Reproof to my soul for its faint despair:--
Blame not life, it is scarce begun;
Blame not mankind, thyself art one.
And change is holy, oh! blame it never;
Thy soul shall live by its changing ever;
Not the bubbling change of a stagnant pool,
But the change of a river, flowing and full;
Where all that is noble and good will grow
Mightier still as the full tides flow;
Till it joins the hidden, the boundless sea,
Rolling through depths of Eternity.
Blame not thy thought that it cannot reach
That which the Infinite must teach;
Bless thy God that the Word came nigh
To guide thee home to thy native sky,
Where all things are homely and glorious too,
And the children are wondering, and glad, and true.

And he pointed away to an Eastern star,
That gleamed through his robes o'er the ocean afar;
And I knew that a star had looked o'er the rim
Of my world that lay all dreary and dim;
And was slowly dissolving the darkness deep
Which, like evil nurse, had soothed me to sleep;
And rising higher, and shining clearer,
Would draw the day-spring ever nearer,
Till the sunshine of God burst full on the morn,
And every hill and valley would start
With the joy of light and new gratitude born
To Him who had led me home to His heart;
And all things that lived in my world within
With the gladness of tears to His feet come in;
And the false Self be banished with fiends to dwell
In the gloomiest haunts of his native hell;
And Pride, that ruled like a god above,
Be trod 'neath the feet of triumphant Love.

And again he pointed across the sea,
And another vision arose in me:
And I knew I walked an ocean of fear,
Yet of safety too, for the Master was near;
And every wave of sorrow or dread,
O'er which strong faith should upraise my head,
Would show from the height of its troubled crest
Still nearer and nearer the Land of Rest.
And when the storm-spray on the wind should arise,
And with tears unbidden should blind mine eyes,
And hide from my vision the Home of Love,
I knew I must look to the star above,
And the mists of Passion would quickly flee,
And the storm would faint to serenity.

And again it seemed as if words found scope,
The sorrowing words of a farewell Hope:
"I will meet thee again in that deathless land,
Whenever thy foot shall imprint the strand;
And the loveliest things that have here been mine,
Shall there in eternal beauty shine;
For there I shall live and never die,
Part of a glorious Eternity;
For the death of Time is To be forgot,
And I go where oblivion entereth not."

He was dead. He had gone to the rest of his race,
With a sad smile frozen upon his face.
Deadness clouded his eyes. And his death-bell rung,
And my sorrowing thoughts his low requiem sung;
And with trembling steps his worn body cast
In the wide charnel-house of the dreary Past.
Thus met the noble Old Year his end:
Rest him in peace, for he was my friend.

As my thoughts returned from their wandering,
A voice in my spirit was lingering;
And its sounds were like Spring's first breeze's hum,
When the oak-leaves fall, and the young leaves come:

Time dieth ever, is ever born:
On the footsteps of night so treadeth the morn;
Shadow and brightness, death and birth,
Chasing each other o'er the round earth.
But the spirit of Time from his tomb is springing,
The dust of decay from his pinions flinging;
Ever renewing his glorious youth,
Scattering around him the dew of Truth.
Oh, let it raise in the desert heart
Fountains and flowers that shall never depart!
This spirit will fill us with thought sublime;
For the End of God is the spirit of Time.



George MacDonald