Lines to the New Year, 1822
Now dark December, with his stormy hand,
Hath closed the circle of the rolling year,
That rearward glides along the length of ages,
And yields his place to coming months which spring
New from the lap of time.
Sad was the scene; no incense-breathing gales
Caught his last sigh; no choral groves their hymns
Or joy and love, gave as he quit, the scene,
Nor genial suns, with love-inspiring ray,
Shone on his parting hour.
But sullen winter with congealing touch,
Seal’d first his eyes, and howling Boreas blew
His fiercest blast, and hurl’d the snowy shroud
Furious around him, and flung o’er his grave
An icy monument.
Nature convulsed, confest the parting pangs,
And, as the year sunk in the grave of time,
She travail’d with his sun and heir, and lo!
The mid-night hour received the new-born babe,
Cradled in wintery storms.
And we, frail mortals, hail’d th’ auspicious hour
That told the coming of another year,
With light and life, and all the blessing he,
The sire of being, gives; and grateful hearts
Our joyful bosoms swell’d.
Offspring of time! thrice welcome to our world;
Tho’ storms obscure thy birth, and Winter hold
His iron sceptre o’er thy wide domains,
Yet spring succeeds them, and her virgin-charms
Shall warm thee into life.
The peeping violet on its grassy couch,
Each fairy flower, the dew-bespangled mead,
The forest clothed in green, the joyous birds
That tune their throats to love; all that hath life,
Their all shall bring to thee.
The fervid suns that Summer’s long arch sweeps,
The thunder cloud that wets the teeming earth,
The beauteous harvests rising on the plain,
The gales that fan them; All conspiring, shall
Thy ripening manhood fill.
Matured with Autumn, thou shalt with her too
Decline; and as she sheds her honours round,
In manly age thy mellow self shalt sink,
And pale October’s latests sun shall shine
Upon thy lockless brow.
And, like thy sire, hoar Winter’s heavy hand
Thou shalt confess, and feel the blasting storms
That shook his from his hold of earthly things —
And, as he gave thee place, so shalt thou cede
Unto another year.
Frail man! behold a picture of thyself —
Thy life is but the circle of a year,
Which death will surely close — Then, to the work
Thou hast to do! That, when thy year’s complete,
Life may be thine hereafter.
Adam Hood Burwell (1790-1849)
from the Montreal Sribbler, 1821
[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]
Adam Hood Burwell biography