The Year

Ella Wheeler Wilcox - 1850-1919

What can be said in New Year rhymes,
That's not been said a thousand times?

The new years come, the old years go,
We know we dream, we dream we know.

We rise up laughing with the light,
We lie down weeping with the night.

We hug the world until it stings,
We curse it then and sigh for wings.

We live, we love, we woo, we wed,
We wreathe our brides, we sheet our dead.

We laugh, we weep, we hope, we fear,
And that's the burden of the year.

More by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Friendship After Love

After the fierce midsummer all ablaze
    Has burned itself to ashes, and expires
    In the intensity of its own fires,
There come the mellow, mild, St. Martin days
Crowned with the calm of peace, but sad with haze.
    So after Love has led us, till he tires
    Of his own throes, and torments, and desires,
Comes large-eyed friendship: with a restful gaze,
He beckons us to follow, and across
    Cool verdant vales we wander free from care.
    Is it a touch of frost lies in the air?
Why are we haunted with a sense of loss?
We do not wish the pain back, or the heat;
And yet, and yet, these days are incomplete.

An Autumn Reverie

Through all the weary, hot midsummer time,
My heart has struggled with its awful grief.
And I have waited for these autumn days,
Thinking the cooling winds would bring relief.
For I remembered how I loved them once,
When all my life was full of melody.
And I have looked and longed for their return,
Nor thought but they would seem the same, to me.

The fiery summer burned itself away,
And from the hills, the golden autumn time
Looks down and smiles. The fields are tinged with brown—
The birds are talking of another clime.
The forest trees are dyed in gorgeous hues,
And weary ones have sought an earthy tomb.
But still the pain tugs fiercely at my heart—
And still my life is wrapped in awful gloom.

The winds I thought would cool my fevered brow,
Are bleak, and dreary; and they bear no balm.
The sounds I thought would soothe my throbbing brain,
Are grating discords; and they can not calm
This inward tempest. Still it rages on.
My soul is tost upon a troubled sea,
I find no pleasure in the olden joys—
The autumn is not as it used to be.

I hear the children shouting at their play!
Their hearts are happy, and they know not pain.
To them the day brings sunlight, and no shade.
And yet I would not be a child again.
For surely as the night succeeds the day,
So surely will their mirth turn into tears.
And I would not return to happy hours,
If I must live again these weary years.

I would walk on, and leave it all behind:
will walk on; and when my feet grow sore,
The boatman waits—his sails are all unfurled—
He waits to row me to a fairer shore.
My tired limbs shall rest on beds of down,
My tears shall all be wiped by Jesus’ hand;
My soul shall know the peace it long hath sought --
A peace too wonderful to understand.

Protest

To sin by silence, when we should protest,
Makes cowards out of men. The human race
Has climbed on protest. Had no voice been raised
Against injustice, ignorance, and lust,
The inquisition yet would serve the law,
And guillotines decide our least disputes.
The few who dare, must speak and speak again
To right the wrongs of many. Speech, thank God,
No vested power in this great day and land
Can gag or throttle. Press and voice may cry
Loud disapproval of existing ills;
May criticise oppression and condemn
The lawlessness of wealth-protecting laws
That let the children and childbearers toil
To purchase ease for idle millionaires.

Therefore I do protest against the boast
Of independence in this mighty land.
Call no chain strong, which holds one rusted link.
Call no land free, that holds one fettered slave.
Until the manacled slim wrists of babes
Are loosed to toss in childish sport and glee,
Until the mother bears no burden, save
The precious one beneath her heart, until
God’s soil is rescued from the clutch of greed
And given back to labor, let no man
Call this the land of freedom.
 

Related Poems

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.