Featured Poem: A Song for New Year’s Eve by William Cullen Bryant

The Reader’s Learning and Quality Leader, Tom Young, shares his thoughts on this week’s Featured Poem, A Song for New Year’s Eve by William Cullen Bryant.

We call it ‘New Year’s Eve’ and make it all about looking forward – counting down to midnight, usually unconsciously and in our heads for hours and then very consciously and out loud for ten seconds. Reading this poem, I realise that I don’t give much thought on the night itself to the fact of it being ‘Old Year’s End’ as well. I wonder what it would be like to savour a final ‘grateful, golden, tender hour’ instead of galloping on to the next one.

I’m struck by it having been a ‘good old year’ of ‘cheerful’, ‘sweet’ things, of ‘hopes’ and kindness. I like the gentle appreciation and calm reflection that seems to be going on here. I think I’ve had a pretty good year, as they go, so I’m quite willing to shake hands and look back with gratitude and fondness. But I wonder how I would feel reading this last year, or next year.

I’d be interested to read this with others: I wonder how those hopes turned out? Has anyone had a bad year? Can you still look back and see that good things were indeed given? Even if you’ve had a rotter, perhaps there is still something to be said for lingering a while, for gathering yourself up – ‘and then away’.

A Song for New Year’s Eve

Stay yet, my friends, a moment stay—
Stay till the good old year,
So long companion of our way,
Shakes hands, and leaves us here.
Oh stay, oh stay,
One little hour, and then away.

The year, whose hopes were high and strong,
Has now no hopes to wake;
Yet one hour more of jest and song
For his familiar sake.
Oh stay, oh stay,
One mirthful hour, and then away.

The kindly year, his liberal hands
Have lavished all his store.
And shall we turn from where he stands,
Because he gives no more?
Oh stay, oh stay,
One grateful hour, and then away.

Days brightly came and calmly went,
While yet he was our guest;
How cheerfully the week was spent!
How sweet the seventh day’s rest!
Oh stay, oh stay,
One golden hour, and then away.

Dear friends were with us, some who sleep
Beneath the coffin-lid:
What pleasant memories we keep
Of all they said and did!
Oh stay, oh stay,
One tender hour, and then away.

Even while we sing, he smiles his last,
And leaves our sphere behind.
The good old year is with the past;
Oh be the new as kind!
Oh stay, oh stay,
One parting strain, and then away.

by William Cullen Bryant

Would you like the opportunity to read this or other poems in a Shared Reading group?

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