The Year-King.

A poem by Denis Florence MacCarthy

It is the last of all the days,
The day on which the Old Year dies.
Ah! yes, the fated hour is near;
I see upon his snow-white bier
Outstretched the weary wanderer lies,
And mark his dying gaze.

A thousand visions dark and fair,
Crowd on the old man's fading sight;
A thousand mingled memories throng
The old man's heart, still green and strong;
The heritage of wrong and right
He leaves unto his heir.

He thinks upon his budding hopes,
The day he stood the world's young king,
Upon his coronation morn,
When diamonds hung on every thorn,
And peeped the pearl flowers of the spring
Adown the emerald slopes.

He thinks upon his youthful pride,
When in his ermined cloak of snow,
Upon his war-horse, stout and staunch--
The cataract-crested avalanche--
He thundered on the rocks below,
With his warriors at his side.

From rock to rock, through cloven scalp,
By rivers rushing to the sea,
With thunderous sound his army wound
The heaven supporting hills around;
Like that the Man of Destiny
Led down the astonished Alp.

The bugles of the blast rang out,
The banners of the lightning swung,
The icy spear-points of the pine
Bristled along the advancing line,
And as the winds' 'reveille' rung,
Heavens! how the hills did shout.

Adown each slippery precipice
Rattled the loosen'd rocks, like balls
Shot from his booming thunder guns,
Whose smoke, effacing stars and suns,
Darkens the stifled heaven, and falls
Far off in arrowy showers of ice.

Ah! yes, he was a mighty king,
A mighty king, full flushed with youth;
He cared not then what ruin lay
Upon his desolating way;
Not his the cause of God or Truth,
But the brute lust of conquering.

Nought could resist his mighty will,
The green grass withered where he stood;
His ruthless hands were prompt to seize
Upon the tresses of the trees;
Then shrieked the maidens of the wood,
And the saplings of the hill.

Nought could resist his mighty will;
For in his ranks rode spectral Death;
The old expired through very fear;
And pined the young, when he came near;
The faintest flutter of his breath
Was sharp enough to kill.

Nought could resist his mighty will;
The flowers fell dead beneath his tread;
The streams of life, that through the plains
Throb night and day through crystal veins,
With feverish pulses frighten'd fled,
Or curdled, and grew still.

Nought could resist his mighty will;
On rafts of ice, blue-hued, like steel,
He crossed the broadest rivers o'er
Ah! me, and then was heard no more
The murmur of the peaceful wheel
That turned the peasant's mill.

But why the evil that attends
On War recall to further view?
Accurs`ed War!--the world too well
Knows what thou art--thou fiend of hell!
The heartless havoc of a few
For their own selfish ends!

Soon, soon the youthful conqueror
Felt moved, and bade the horrors cease;
Nature resumed its ancient sway,
Warm tears rolled down the cheeks of Day,
And Spring, the harbinger of peace
Proclaimed the fight was o'er.

Oh! what a change came o'er the world;
The winds, that cut like naked swords,
Shed balm upon the wounds they made;
And they who came the first to aid
The foray of grim Winter's hordes
The flag of truce unfurled.

Oh! how the song of joy, the sound
Of rapture thrills the leaguered camps
The tinkling showers like cymbals clash
Upon the late leaves of the ash,
And blossoms hang like festal lamps
On all the trees around.

And there is sunshine, sent to strew
God's cloth of gold, whereon may dance,
To music that harmonious moves,
The link`ed Graces and the Loves,
Making reality romance,
And rare romance even more than true.

The fields laughed out in dimpling flowers,
The streams' blue eyes flashed bright with smiles;
The pale-faced clouds turned rosy-red,
As they looked down from overhead,
Then fled o'er continents and isles,
To shed their happy tears in showers.

The youthful monarch's heart grew light
To find what joy good deeds can shed;
To nurse the orphan buds that bent
Over each turf-piled monument,
Wherein the parent flowers lay dead
Who perished in that fight.

And as he roamed from day to day,
Atoning thus to flower and tree,
Flinging his lavish gold around
In countless yellow flowers, he found,
By gladsome-weeping April's knee,
The modest maiden May.

Oh! she was young as angels are,
Ere the eternal youth they lead
Gives any clue to tell the hours
They've spent in heaven's elysian bowers;
Ere God before their eyes decreed
The birth-day of some beauteous star.

Oh! she was fair as are the leaves
Of pale white roses, when the light
Of sunset, through some trembling bough,
Kisses the queen-flower's blushing brow,
Nor leaves it red nor marble white,
But rosy-pale, like April eves.

Her eyes were like forget-me-nots,
Dropped in the silvery snowdrop's cup,
Or on the folded myrtle buds,
The azure violet of the woods;
Just as the thirsty sun drinks up
The dewy diamonds on the plots.

And her sweet breath was like the sighs
Breathed by a babe of youth and love;
When all the fragrance of the south
From the cleft cherry of its mouth,
Meets the fond lips that from above
Stoop to caress its slumbering eyes.

He took the maiden by the hand,
And led her in her simple gown
Unto a hamlet's peaceful scene,
Upraised her standard on the green;
And crowned her with a rosy crown
The beauteous Queen of all the land.

And happy was the maiden's reign--
For peace, and mirth, and twin-born love
Came forth from out men's hearts that day,
Their gladsome fealty to pay;
And there was music in the grove,
And dancing on the plain.

And Labour carolled at his task,
Like the blithe bird that sings and builds
His happy household 'mid the leaves;
And now the fibrous twig he weaves,
And now he sings to her who gilds
The sole horizon he doth ask.

And Sickness half forgot its pain,
And Sorrow half forgot its grief;
And Eld forgot that it was old,
As if to show the age of gold
Was not the poet's fond belief,
But every year comes back again.

The Year-King passed along his way:
Rejoiced, rewarded, and content;
He passed to distant lands and new;
For other tasks he had to do;
But wheresoe'er the wanderer went,
He ne'er forgot his darling May.

He sent her stems of living gold
From the rich plains of western lands,
And purple-gushing grapes from vines
Born of the amorous sun that shines
Where Tagus rolls its golden sands,
Or Guadalete old.

And citrons from Firenze's fields,
And golden apples from the isles
That gladden the bright southern seas,
True home of the Hesperides:
Which now no dragon guards, but smiles,
The bounteous mother, as she yields.

And then the king grew old like Lear--
His blood waxed chill, his beard grew gray;
He changed his sceptre for a staff:
And as the thoughtless children laugh
To see him totter on his way,
He knew his destined hour was near.

And soon it came; and here he strives,
Outstretched upon his snow-white bier,
To reconcile the dread account--
How stands the balance, what the amount;
As we shall do with trembling fear
When our last hour arrives.

Come, let us kneel around his bed,
And pray unto his God and ours
For mercy on his servant here:
Oh, God be with the dying year!
And God be with the happy hours
That died before their sire lay dead!

And as the bells commingling ring
The New Year in, the Old Year out,
Muffled and sad, and now in peals
With which the quivering belfry reels,
Grateful and hopeful be the shout,
The King is dead!--Long live the King!

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