Songs of the Common Day, and Ave!

An Ode for the Shelley Centenary

by Charles G.D. Roberts


 

NEW YEAR'S EVE

(AFTER THE FRENCH OF FRÉCHETTE)


 

YE night winds shaking the weighted boughs
    Of snow-blanched hemlock and frosted fir,
While crackles sharply the thin crust under
    The passing feet of the wayfarer;

Ye night cries pulsing in long-drawn waves

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    Where beats the bitter tide to its flood;
A tumult of pain, a rumour of sorrow,
    Troubling the starred night's tranquil mood;

Ye shuddering where, like a great beast bound,
    The forest strains to its depths remote;

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Be still and hark! From the high gray tower
    The great bell sobs in its brazen throat.

A strange voice out of the pallid heaven,
    Twelve sobs it utters, and stops. Midnight!
'Tis the ominous Hail! and the stern Farewell!

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        Of Past and Present in passing flight.

This moment, herald of hope and doom,
    That cries in our ears and then is gone,
Has marked for us in the awful volume
    One step toward the infinite dark—or dawn!

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A year is gone, and a year begins.
    Ye wise ones, knowing in Nature's scheme,
Oh tell us whither they go, the years
    That drop in the gulfs of time and dream!

They go to the goal of all things mortal,

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    Where fade our destinies, scarce perceived,
To the dim abyss wherein time confounds them—
    The hours we laughed and the days we grieved.

They go where the bubbles of rainbow break
    We breathed in our youth of love and fame,

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Where great and small are as one together,
    And oak and windflower counted the same.

They go where follow our smiles and tears,
    The gold of youth and the gray of age,
Where falls the storm and falls the stillness,

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    The laughter of spring and winter's rage.

What hand shall gauge the depth of time
    Or a little measure eternity?
God only, as they unroll before Him,
    Conceives and orders the mystery.

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