It is a winter's night. The clear, cold moon
O'er a snowy landscape sheds its bright beams,
Cov'ring the distant hills with sheeny mist,
And, falling upon the smoother surface
Of the frozen river, makes it appear
Like a glittering stream of light flowing on
Between its darker shores; while the fierce winds,
As through the naked branches of the trees
They pass, sing a requiem wild and weird.
A watcher by a casement sits gazing
Upon the scene. Silence reigns within, save
The sound of ancient timepiece as it marks
The passing moments. 'Tis 'proaching the hour
Of midnight; the final hour of the year
Passing silently but surely to join
The many thousands are already gone
To make up the history of the world.
Is it Age, withered and bent, sitting alone,
Recalling the sorrows of the past? No;
It is Youth, ever bright, expectant Youth,
Waiting to hear the bell's first joyous peal
Ringing in the New Year,--the "New Year," fraught
With happiness for the young, and to all
Over which the star of hope brightly beams.
Thou, O Time! ever pictured old and gray,
Holding within thy hand a reaper's scythe,
Should not be so represented; but youth,
Immortal youth, should crown thy massive brow,
Thy majestic form in purple be clothed,
Bearing the sceptre of eternal truth
In thy right hand; for thou ruleth the world
As that monarch of the Alps, the mighty Blanc,
Controlleth the rolling avalanche, as he
First heraldeth the coming day, so thou
Dost herald the coming of the new heaven
And new earth, wherein God only shall reign
It is not true what many sing
Of thee, calling thee pitiless and fierce,
More closely allied to grief than to joy;
For the expectations of many thou
Hast crowned with their fulfilment in the past.
Thou bidst the polar Winter flee away
To his home in the north, wooing Spring, warm
Spring, to resume again her floral sway,
And, gently loosening with her soft touch
The fetters of the frozen fountains, bid
Them begin their murmuring melodies.
Thou calleth back the birds from their retreat
To the sunny isles of the distant South,
Replacing with their joyous return
The bow of promise in the eastern sky;
While the springing grain with refreshing showers
Thou wat'rest, and the plentiful harvest
Is thy gift.
Not alone in nature dost
Thou manifest thy power; for new worlds thou
Revealeth, and new cities buildeth. Thou
Developeth in nations those things which aid
Their growth, as well as those which deteriorate,
Bringing the first to perfection, the latter
To light, that they may be remedied. Thou
Usherest in new eras. New empires
Spring up more powerful than those before.
New statesmen, warriors, monarchs, and immortal
Geniuses do arise to claim the hour.
The usurper is crushed beneath thy tread,
And re-established is the rightful power.
The shackles of slavery, too, thou hast
Broken; and no more shall the lash descend
Upon the hapless victim's naked form,
Or virtue's fair sweet name be outraged more.
Revolutions are governed by thee. From
The smoke and carnage of the battle-field
Thou bidst triumphant Liberty arise.
Then over the mould'ring bones of the slain
Fair Peace doth spread her rich mantle of green,
And smiles on the happy homes that spring up
Spontaneously 'neath her gentle sway.
Pass on, ever on, O Time! ush'ring in
New joys, new aspirations, and new life,
Uplifting men to the zenith of fame,
And bearing the nations safely through wars,
Famine, and pestilence; blotting out
Superstition, and establishing right
Laws, and right interpretations thereof,
So that the world may the sooner arise
To the full fruition of its highest hopes.
Thou bearest thousands to the grave, as well
As ush'ring countless numbers into life.
When from the present we look backward through
The revolving ages of the past, what
A throng our mental vision then beholds!--
The rich, the poor, the bond, the free, crowned kings,
The mitred of old,--passing to the grave.
What is the grave? Is it merely a land
Of dreams, where all is shadowy and dim,
An end of our existence and of time?
No; but instead it is the portal where
Both time and eternity become one.