How to think about the coming of the new year? Perhaps the poets might be of some help.
Poets across time, from Robert Burns to Thomas Hardy, have written with mixed emotions about this annual event. How could they not? It is at once a closing and an opening. What will we see, the poets ask, if we look closely?
“Mild is the parting year, and sweet,” wrote Walter Savage Landor in 19th-century England.
The American light versifier Ogden Nash wrote, “Tonight’s December thirty-first, / Something is about to burst. / The clock is crouching, dark and small, / Like a time bomb in the hall.”
More recently, British poet Carol Ann Duffy began her poem “New Year” thus: “I drop the dying year behind me like a shawl / and let it fall. The urgent fireworks fling themselves / against the night, flowers of desire, love’s fervency.”
One of the most masterful poems about the subject is “Year’s End” by the late Richard Wilbur, a longtime Massachusetts resident. It begins, “Now winter downs the dying of the year, / And night is all a settlement of snow...”
And it ends with a magnificent flourish four sinuous stanzas later:
These sudden ends of time must give us pause.
We fray into the future, rarely wrought
Save in the tapestries of afterthought.
More time, more time. Barrages of applause
Come muffled from a buried radio.
The New-year bells are wrangling with the snow.
We will let those lines hang in the wintry air, unexplained, and encourage you to read the full poem (you can also hear it read aloud) at www.poetryfoundation.org.
Thank you for reading the Enterprise in 2021. Have a safe and healthy 2022!