The Old Year and the New

A poem by Abram Joseph Ryan

How swift they go,
Life's many years,
With their winds of woe
And their storms of tears,
And their darkest of nights whose shadowy slopes
Are lit with the flashes of starriest hopes,
And their sunshiny days in whose calm heavens loom
The clouds of the tempest -- the shadows of the gloom!

And ah! we pray
With a grief so drear,
That the years may stay
When their graves are near;
Tho' the brows of To-morrows be radiant and bright,
With love and with beauty, with life and with light,
The dead hearts of Yesterdays, cold on the bier,
To the hearts that survive them, are evermore dear.

For the hearts so true
To each Old Year cleaves;
Tho' the hand of the New
Flowery garlands weaves.
But the flowers of the future, tho' fragrant and fair,
With the past's withered leaflets may never compare;
For dear is each dead leaf -- and dearer each thorn --
In the wreaths which the brows of our past years have worn.

Yea! men will cling
With a love to the last,
And wildly fling
Their arms round their past!
As the vine that clings to the oak that falls;
As the ivy twines round the crumbled walls;
For the dust of the past some hearts higher prize
Than the stars that flash out from the future's bright skies.

And why not so?
The old, Old Years,
They knew and they know
All our hopes and fears;
We walked by their side, and we told them each grief,
And they kissed off our tears while they whispered relief;
And the stories of hearts that may not be revealed
In the hearts of the dead years are buried and sealed.

Let the New Year sing
At the Old Year's grave:
Will the New Year bring
What the Old Year gave?
Ah! the Stranger-Year trips over the snows,
And his brow is wreathed with many a rose:
But how many thorns do the roses conceal
Which the roses, when withered, shall so soon reveal?

Let the New Year smile
When the Old Year dies;
In how short a while
Shall the smiles be sighs?
Yea! Stranger-Year, thou hast many a charm,
And thy face is fair and thy greeting warm,
But, dearer than thou -- in his shroud of snows --
Is the furrowed face of the Year that goes.

Yea! bright New Year,
O'er all the earth,
With song and cheer,
They will hail thy birth;
They will trust thy words in a single hour,
They will love thy face, they will laud thy power;
For the ~New~ has charms which the ~Old~ has not,
And the Stranger's face makes the Friend's forgot.

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