Friday, December 31, 2021

New Year's Eve in Four Poems

 JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: What can be said about this New Year's Eve without a small sting? Little champagne, still less parties, and Times Square roomy with one fourth of the usual revelers. Many of us see the year pass with a weary sigh, wondering worriedly about the next. 

This is a good time for the reflection and consolation of poetry. I thought I'd share four poems written for this night - do they speak to you? What poems or readings would you include for a New Year's Eve?


Pavane for the New Year by Elder James Olson


Soul, plucking the many strings

Of my limbs like puppet’s, make them dance,

Dance, dance, in somber joy,

That after all the sullen play

The old world falls, the new world forms.


A thought like music takes us now,

So like, that every soul must move,

Move in a most stately measure,

And souls and bodies tread in time

Till all the trembling towers fall down.


And now the stones arise again

Till all the world is built anew

And now in one accord like rhyme,

And we who wound the midnight clock

Hear the clock of morning chime.

    from Poetry Magazine, December 1948 

 The Year by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

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 prides, we sheet our dead. 

We laugh, we weep, we hope, we fear, 

And that’s the burden of a year.


Promises by Jackie Kay

Remember, the time of year
when the future appears
like a blank sheet of paper
a clean calendar, a new chance.
On thick white snow
You vow fresh footprints
then watch them go
with the wind’s hearty gust.
Fill your glass. Here’s tae us. Promises
made to be broken, made to last.

    from A Poem for Every Day of the Year, Aillie Asiri, editor


Good Riddance, But Now What? by Ogden Nash

Come, children, gather round my knee;
Something is about to be.
Tonight’s December thirty-first,
Something is about to burst.
The clock is crouching, dark and small,
Like a time bomb in the hall.
Hark! It’s midnight, children dear.
Duck! Here comes another year.


  1. These are wonderful, Julia . . . if I had to add another, I'd include "New Year" by Sandra Hearth

    Another year is coming to a close.
    We can forget our troubles and woes.

    For me, this year was tough.
    It brought many emotions, was tearful and rough.

    Now another year is approaching fast.
    Let's hope it's a New Year with love and health; let's hope it's a blast.

    May all of your dreams come true
    And you find peace and love in all that you do.

    May this world know the gentle sound of a hush.
    May it calm all its anger and slow its pace from the rush.

    May we all hear the sound of joy
    And push away all that hurts, all that destroys.

    The New Year I hope will be good to us all.
    Care and calm, a helping hand when we fall.

    Listen more, slow down, and say I love you.
    Stop for a moment; take a breath, take in the view.

    Appreciate your family; tell them you care.
    Do something exciting, a thrill or a dare.

    Enjoy all that the New Year may give.
    We have but one life, so let's learn to live.

    It's a New Year, a brand new start.
    Always remember, live and love from your heart.

    Wishing each and every one a year to behold,
    And may it be full of wonders for you to unfold.

    Love, hugs, and kisses too...
    A very happy New Year from me to you.

    1. JOAN: Thanks for adding this certainly rings true for me!

    2. Thanks Joan, this poem touched me.

    3. What a wonderful poem. Thank you, Joan, for adding it.

    4. "Listen more, slow down, and say I love you.
      Stop for a moment; take a breath, take in the view."

      This speaks to me so much, Joan. Thanks for sharing.


  2. The Ogden Nash certainly was the first to come to mind for me. Prescient.

    But this there's this one: Maybe the more things change, the more they stay the same?

    In Memoriam, [Ring out, wild bells]
    Alfred Lord Tennyson - 1809-1892

    Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
    The flying cloud, the frosty light:
    The year is dying in the night;
    Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

    Ring out the old, ring in the new,
    Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
    The year is going, let him go;
    Ring out the false, ring in the true.

    Ring out the grief that saps the mind
    For those that here we see no more;
    Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
    Ring in redress to all mankind.

    Ring out a slowly dying cause,
    And ancient forms of party strife;
    Ring in the nobler modes of life,
    With sweeter manners, purer laws.

    Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
    The faithless coldness of the times;
    Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
    But ring the fuller minstrel in.

    Ring out false pride in place and blood,
    The civic slander and the spite;
    Ring in the love of truth and right,
    Ring in the common love of good.

    Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
    Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
    Ring out the thousand wars of old,
    Ring in the thousand years of peace.

    Ring in the valiant man and free,
    The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
    Ring out the darkness of the land,
    Ring in the Christ that is to be.

    1. "Ring out the false pride in place and blood" Man, does that hit the mark, Ann.

    2. Ann, if I had the bells to ring, you can bet I'd be ringing them madly at midnight tonight. This one surely hits the mark for 2021.

    3. This poem is perfect, Ann. Still so meaningful for us

    4. It is always meaningful, Rhys. Tennyson wrote, "Ring out a slowly dying cause, And ancient forms of party strife; Ring in the nobler modes of life, With sweeter manners, purer laws" in 1850, and we can wish for exactly the same thing today.

    5. No one says it better than Tennyson. Thanks for this, Ann.

  3. Wonderful, Julia. Thank you. I love Mary Oliver's "The Journey"

    The Journey
    by Mary Oliver

    One day you finally knew
    what you had to do, and began,
    though the voices around you
    kept shouting
    their bad advice–
    though the whole house
    began to tremble
    and you felt the old tug
    at your ankles.
    “Mend my life!”
    each voice cried.
    But you didn’t stop.
    You knew what you had to do,
    though the wind pried
    with its stiff fingers
    at the very foundations,
    though their melancholy
    was terrible.
    It was already late
    enough, and a wild night,
    and the road full of fallen
    branches and stones.
    But little by little,
    as you left their voices behind,
    the stars began to burn
    through the sheets of clouds,
    and there was a new voice
    which you slowly
    recognized as your own,
    that kept you company
    as you strode deeper and deeper
    into the world,
    determined to do
    the only thing you could do–
    determined to save
    the only life you could save.

    1. What a gorgeous poem, Edith. Thank you for sharing it.

    2. You can never go wrong with Mary Oliver!

    3. That is wonderful, Edith. Gave me goosebumps. I need to read more Mary Oliver.

  4. JULIA: Thanks, these poems are lovely.

    Here is a winter poem that I like.
    And I plan to walk many more miles (km) in 2022!

    Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
    Robert Frost

    Whose woods these are I think I know.
    His house is in the village though;
    He will not see me stopping here
    To watch his woods fill up with snow.

    My little horse must think it queer
    To stop without a farmhouse near
    Between the woods and frozen lake
    The darkest evening of the year.

    He gives his harness bells a shake
    To ask if there is some mistake.
    The only other sound’s the sweep
    Of easy wind and downy flake.

    The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep.

    1. Grace, this is one of the poems my children had to memorize in school (parochial; they kept to old practices like memorizing poetry long after public schools abandoned the idea.) It's particularly evocative for those of us who live in the snowy north.

  5. Duck, indeed!

    Seriously, all best wishes to you, Julia, to all of the Reds and to everyone who hangs out here on the back blog for a happy, healthy 2022. Stay safe and have fun!

    1. Thank you, Brenda! I'd like the New Year to include raising a glass with you and Diane, so let's keep that in mind.

    2. Can I come along for that glass? I'm only an hour south!

  6. I just Googled new year's poems, and there are lots of them, but not the one I was thinking of. So, Grace, Robert Frost could be sparky, too.
    Fire and Ice

    Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice.
    From what I've tasted of desire
    I hold with those who favor fire.
    But if I had to perish twice,
    I think I know enough of hate
    To say that for destruction ice
    Is also great
    And would suffice.

    1. One of my favorites. And I think it may be in the public domain by now, although I'd have to check. Yes, indeed, he could be snarky. My favorite of his is "A Considerable Speck." And throughout the previous presidency, I kept thinking how "Something [Frost!] there is that doesn't love a wall."

    2. So true, Ellen! I love his "Desert Places."

  7. Robert Frost could be snarky. Gee, autocorrect!

  8. While I am not the world's biggest fan of poetry, all of these resonate in some way. Thank you for elevating the tone of the last day of the year, Julia and fellow backbloggers.

    Auld lang syne, my friends.

    Auld Lang Syne
    Lyrics by Dougie Mclean

    Should auld acquaintance be forgot
    And never brought to mind?
    Should auld acquaintance be forgot
    And days of auld lang syne?
    For auld lang syne, my dear
    For auld lang syne
    We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet
    For days of auld lang syne
    We twa hae run about the braes
    And pu'd the gowans fine
    But we've wander'd mony a weary fit
    Sin days of auld lang syne
    And we twa hae paidl'd I' the burn
    Frae morning sun 'til dine
    But seas between us braid hae roar'd
    Sin days of auld lang syne
    For auld lang syne, my dear
    For auld lang syne
    We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet
    For days of auld lang syne
    And surely ye'll be your pint-stowp
    And surely I'll be mine
    And we'll tak a cup o' kindness yet
    For auld lang syne
    And there's a hand, my trusty fiere
    And gie's a hand o' thine
    And we'll tak a right gude-willy waught
    For auld lang syne
    For auld lang syne, my dear
    For auld lang syne
    We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet
    For auld lang syne
    For auld lang syne, my dear
    For auld lang syne
    We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet
    For auld lang syne

    1. This always makes me teary-eyed, Karen. How did you get the Scottish through the autocorrect? Well done!

    2. Also, I looked up "willy waught". It means a friendly and/or long drink.

    3. "And we'll tak a right gude-willy waught"
      Back at 'cha, Karen!!
      I always giggle when I see anything written out in Scottish dialect. Ha!

      And Kait, I agree, "Should auld acquaintance be forgot
      And never brought to mind?" is a sentiment that brings tears to your eyes, unless you try to read some of the more obscure passages. Then, giggle.

    4. I'm sorry, Karen. I just can't let this pass unremarked-upon.
      It's Robbie Burns.

      Thanks for sharing this quintessential New Year's poem.

    5. I also thought it was by Burns.

    6. I stand corrected, Susan! The song was written by Mclean, not the words.

    7. I'll add the Scots toast Jackie Kay refers to:
      "Here's tae us. Wha's like us. Damn few, And they're a' deid. Mair's the pity!"

  9. I'm all out of poetry, unless you count the gloomy sonnets of Edna St. Vincent Millay, but I do wish you all a new year where you can find joy if you look closely enough. And I wish you all the heart to celebrate the joy you find.

    1. Her sonnets are a topic for another day, Gigi. Such drama!!

  10. I love the Ogden Nash.

    I have been sharing my favorite Richard Wilbur poem, "Year's End," which I commend to you all. It begins, "Now winter downs the dying of the year," and it is a tour de force in skillful writing and atmospheric allusion. Here is a link because, copyright lawyer that I am, I dare not reproduce the poem (except for that one line as part of the foregoing one-sentence critique, which I believe falls within Fair Use guidelines)-- but providing a link does not overstep the bounds:

    A happy new year to you all. And as one of our local TV anchors used to end his broadcasts, "Better tomorrows."

    1. I've read the Wilbur poem before, Ellen, and I love it.

      And yes, the Ogden Nash seemed particularly apropos this night...

    2. Wow, Ellen, that poem is fabulous. I'm going to print it out to keep it in mind.

  11. Sorry-- after 50+ years, I revert to [lawyer] type!

  12. Yep. "Stopping By Woods" and "Road Not Taken" and "Fire and Ice" are all in the public domain.

    1. Yes, way more than 50 years. I was in 6th grade when I began to memorize his poetry.

    2. No, there is no 50 years provision. It is life plus 70 for New Law works, but these are Old Law works, so the renewal term (a second 28 years) was extended. You count Old Law works from year of publication (used to be a total of 56, but that was extended. Honestly, you need a score card. I used to have one taped up above my computer.

    3. Ellen, I had no idea. It was available on the website you recommended to find Richard Wilbur. Anyway, I wrote it down from memory then checked for punctuation. Frost is very quotable.

    4. Ellen, you make me glad I never went into copyright law - and glad there are smart people who do!

  13. I'm not all that familiar with New Year's poems but I enjoyed "Promises" very much. It summed up my feelings nicely. Which reminds me that I have a few new (paper) calendars that I am looking forward to hanging.

    1. Judi, for me it's the new desk calendar/memorandum/date book. I love all those crisp sheets and blank lines, just waiting for the pen.

  14. Ogden Nash definitely speaks to me! Duck! Here comes another year. I don't have a new year poetry read, but I think this year I may change that and read the Desiderata and The Little Prince. Happy New Year to all!

  15. Thank you Reds and readers, for all these lovely poems! I have enjoyed them all, though I have to say the Ella Wheeler Wilcox one spoke to me the most. (So much so that I read it aloud to my husband.) And Finta, I was amazed at the timeliness of the Tennyson poem!

    1. Susan, I agree! It is interesting that things written so long ago can "ring" true today. Perhaps that is what makes some art immortal.

    2. It also rather puts to the lie the idea of the good old days, doesn't it?

  16. We're confronting climate change at every turn: longer, hotter summers and crazy December tornados. During Thanksgiving week in DC, I delighted in the yellow foliage on the ginkgo trees, which lead to looking up Hopkins' poem, "Spring and Fall", about innocence and immortality.

    "Margaret, are you grieving/Over Goldengrove unleaving?"

    1. Robert Frost again, from Good-bye and Keep Cold

      "No orchard's the worse for the wintriest storm;
      But one thing about it, it mustn't get warm.
      "How often already you've had to be told,
      Keep cold, young orchard. Good-by and keep cold."

  17. "Duck! Here comes another year." Oh, Ogden, I hear you.

    Happy New Year to all!

  18. Julia, I must thank you for these poems and this topic today. This is so much fun!!
    "I'll be back!"

  19. 'til all the world is built anew'--Olsen speaks what I fervently wish! But I have to say, Ogden Nash nails it for me, alas! Duck, indeed!

    Great poems, all! A wonderful start to my day. And I wish all of you good health, good fortune, and all the joy you can muster in the coming year!

  20. Thank you for these poems, Julia, and everyone who has added to them. I give my thanks for this community and all the conversations we have throughout the year. May 2022 bring with it love and laughter, no matter what else arrives! Be well.

    1. Amanda, no matter what happens in the wide world, we'll still be here, talking books and swapping stories.

  21. A Snarky Sarcastic Few Rhyming Lines by Jay "Not A Poet" Roberts

    So here it comes, another year.
    After yet another making me wish for lots of beer.
    I made it through without becoming dead
    Stay up til midnight? Screw that...I'm going to bed!

  22. Thanks everyone, for sharing all these year end thoughts.
    (Even the snarky, sparky ones.)

  23. “Duck! Here comes another year.” This feels very on point. LOL. Happy New Year, Reds and Readers, may it not suck.

  24. "Duck" is my new favourite phrase. Not a poem, but a bit of glory from Dorothy Sayers in The Nine Tailors:

    “The bells gave tongue: Gaude, Sabaoth, John, Jericho, Jubilee, Dimity, Batty Thomas and Tailor Paul, rioting and exulting high up in the dark tower, wide mouths rising and falling, brazen tongues clamouring, huge wheels turning to the dance of the leaping ropes. Tin tan din dan bim bam bom bo--tan tin din dan bam bim bo bom--tan dan tin bam din bo bim bom--every bell in her place striking tuneably, hunting up, hunting down, dodging, snapping, laying her blows behind, making her thirds and fourths, working down to lead the dance again. Out over the flat, white wastes of fen, over the spear-straight, steel-dark dykes and the wind-bent, groaning poplar trees, bursting from the snow-choked louvres of the belfry, whirled away southward and westward in gusty blasts of clamour to the sleeping counties went the music of the bells--little Gaude, silver Sabaoth, strong John and Jericho, glad Jubilee, sweet Dimity and old Batty Thomas, with great Tailor Paul bawling and striding like a giant in the midst of them. Up and down went the shadows of the ringers upon the walls, up and down went the scarlet sallies flickering roofwards and floorwards, and up and down, hunting in their courses, went the bells of Fenchurch St. Paul.”

    1. C.D., that is glorious. What a writer she was. Thank you for sharing.

    2. When I read the first Claire Ferguson story, I thought of Sayers -- a woman caught up in both murder and religion.

  25. DUCK It would make a great license plate.
    I love all these poems - thanks everyone for sharing.

    Not sure why but the lines stuck in my head are the gloomy Edna St. Vincent Millay's:
    My candle burns at both ends;
    It will not last the night;
    But ah, my foes and oh, my friends --
    It burns a lovely light!

    1. I don't think that's so gloomy, Hallie! Shining a lovely light is what we need.

    2. Hallie, you should visit Camden when you're in maine next summer, if you haven't already. They have a nice walking tour of sites connected to St. Vincent Millay. Plus, you get to see "three long mountains and a wood" alongside "thee islands in a bay."

    3. Hallie, now you have me thinking of a whole merchandising campaign for "Duck." I envision a t-shirt with "Duck" and on the space below it ~Ogden Nash. It's like so many t-shirts and other merchandise that have little inside jokes. When I was wearing my Schitt's Creek t-shirt that simply said "fold in the cheese," and another fan of the show saw it and told me she loved it, and we both said, "When you know, you know" about recognizing where it was from. Part of the fun of wearing it.

    4. Yes Hallie, my favorite poem of hers

    5. Oh, Hallie, that's one of my favorites!

  26. I have nothing to add! Many of the poems/poets mentioned here today are among my favorites. I thank you, Julia, and everyone else who contributed something today. And thank you, Reds and backbloggers, for enriching my life in this past year!

    Happy New Year!


  27. These were all lovely! Thanks, Reds. Happy 2022 to everyone!

  28. And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
    “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
    And he replied:
    “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
    That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”

  29. I think Ogden Nash's poem fits our times perfectly, with its good humor. I also like Jackie Kay's for its hopeful metaphors of a blank piece of paper, a clean calendar, and a fresh snow. So, thanks for those, Julia.

    And, here is the "New Day's Lyric" from the amazing Inauguration poet Amanda Gorman. With her poetry, it is always a wonderful experience listening to her read/perform it, so I'll include that link as well as the poem text.

    “New Day’s Lyric”

    May this be the day
    We come together.
    Mourning, we come to mend,
    Withered, we come to weather,
    Torn, we come to tend,
    Battered, we come to better.
    Tethered by this year of yearning,
    We are learning
    That though we weren’t ready for this,
    We have been readied by it.
    We steadily vow that no matter
    How we are weighed down,
    We must always pave a way forward.

    This hope is our door, our portal.
    Even if we never get back to normal,
    Someday we can venture beyond it,
    To leave the known and take the first steps.
    So let us not return to what was normal,
    But reach toward what is next.

    What was cursed, we will cure.
    What was plagued, we will prove pure.
    Where we tend to argue, we will try to agree,
    Those fortunes we forswore, now the future we foresee,
    Where we weren’t aware, we’re now awake;
    Those moments we missed
    Are now these moments we make,
    The moments we meet,
    And our hearts, once all together beaten,
    Now all together beat.

    Come, look up with kindness yet,
    For even solace can be sourced from sorrow.
    We remember, not just for the sake of yesterday,
    But to take on tomorrow.

    We heed this old spirit,
    In a new day’s lyric,
    In our hearts, we hear it:
    For auld lang syne, my dear,
    For auld lang syne.
    Be bold, sang Time this year,
    Be bold, sang Time,
    For when you honor yesterday,
    Tomorrow ye will find.
    Know what we’ve fought
    Need not be forgot nor for none.
    It defines us, binds us as one,
    Come over, join this day just begun.
    For wherever we come together,
    We will forever overcome.

  30. A bit of On Angels, by Czeslaw Milosz

    I have heard that voice many a time when asleep
    and, what is strange, I understood more or less
    an order or an appeal in an unearthly tongue:
    day draws near
    another one
    do what you can.

  31. All of these are wonderful. "Duck" should be our new Reds t-shirt, as Kathy suggested. I especially love the Jackie Kay, but will be going back to reread throughout the day. Happy New Year's Eve!

  32. Oh, how I have loved all this! Thank you! I'm going to share a poem that is not a holiday poem, but rather one that captures how I feel about The Reds - all of you. One of my favorite poems ever.
    Variation on a Theme by King David

    Praise to you!
    Praise to you my snappy love!

    Praise you in clean socks on a Queens-bound
    train; praise you
    for your famous avocado
    sandwiches; Praise you from Brooklyn to blasphemy!

    I've called the mayor to praise you; & a third-
    base coach; even
    that no-neck accountant
    who doesn't have the decency to nod hello
    has agreed to praise you!

    Praise you with bongos and fine fancy
    tea; praise you
    with rhumba, tango & marmalade; praise
    you with your knickers at your knees!

    I praise you on Flag Day, & on whichever equinox
    allows for the balancing of eggs;
    I praise you with eggs!
    Brown ones & jumbo & Faberge Tiffany blue!

    On the white of your wrist I praise you;
    on the vacuumed throw rug; I praise you full-
    page on Sunday! With faxes
    & foxgloves & brushed cotton sheets;
    with sky-write & timbrel &

    wink! Let every soul
    in the Battery Tunnel honk
    her horn to praise you! Praise you
    with ripe limes & wrestling mats;
    praise you tax-free with agates and tin foil
    & all sparkly things!

    Praise you with foggy spectacles and Wisconsin green cheese!
    Praise you to the afternoon of orthopedic sneakers;
    praise you from poinsettia to piccolo!
    Praise you & praise you & praise you!

    My love,
    from Brooklyn to blasphemy I praise you!

    -- L. B. Thompson