Poetry Wednesday: New Year’s Morning

I know it’s slightly belated, but 2013 still has that new year smell and I’m not one to pass up a ready-made subject, especially after two weeks of unrelenting holiday madness as channeled through two small children, so here we go.

I’d thought of reprising Auld Lang Syne again, out of sheer laziness for old time’s sake (Hey-o!), but I happen to have another great poem that’s more about facing the future than saying goodbye, however beautifully.

And it’s from Helen Hunt Jackson, too, who was, as I found out earlier this year, a remarkable and very determined lady.  Likewise, this poem practically demands optimism and challenges us to explore new possibilities—but also offers infinite do-overs.

I like that in a poem.

New Year’s Morning
(Helen Hunt Jackson)

Only a night from old to new!
Only a night, and so much wrought!
The Old Year’s heart all weary grew,
But said: “The New Year rest has brought.”
The Old Year’s hopes its heart laid down,
As in a grave; but, trusting, said:
“The blossoms of the New Year’s crownSunset
Bloom from the ashes of the dead.”
The Old Year’s heart was full of greed;
With selfishness it longed and ached,
And cried: “I have not half I need.
My thirst is bitter and unslaked.
But to the New Year’s generous hand
All gifts in plenty shall return;
True love it shall understand;
By all my failures it shall learn.
I have been reckless; it shall be
Quiet and calm and pure of life.
I was a slave; it shall go free,
And find sweet peace where I leave strife.”
Only a night from old to new!
Never a night such changes brought.
The Old Year had its work to do;
No New Year miracles are wrought.

Always a night from old to new!Sunrise
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.

That’s the stuff.*

Though I’ve heard rumors that Ben Jonson—or maybe Shakespeare?—wrote a magnificent ode to the hangover that might have done.  Maybe next year . . .


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