New Year’s Eve
The Wiltshire Times Jan 5 1895, p. 2
I had sought a quiet corner, and was musing o’er the pages
That my memory spread before me, with the records of the year.
’Twas the last day of December, which, at each return, a stage is
To review the months departed and prepare for seasons near.
The short afternoon had ended—the long evening was closing;
I could hear the measured ticking of the clock above the stair.
More distinctly still I heard it strike twelve times, as if imposing
Prompt attention to some duty that was urgent then and there.
When the whir and ring subsided a strange vision shone before me;
In broad outline and in detail it was vividly displayed;
And I seemed to hear soft voices, as of spirits round and o’er me,
Kindly whispering assurance that I need not be afraid.
The lamp upon the table had gone out, for lack of trimming,
And the fire within the grate had dwindled almost to a spark;
But the room was full of shimmer, like the phosphorescence brimming
On the billow of the ocean, round a steady sailing barque.
Half in fear and half in wonder I sprang up, not knowing whether
I was waking or was sleeping when, to add to my surprise,
While I strove and still kept striving to collect my thoughts together,
Lo, a man, with spade and mattock, stood before my startled eyes!
On his brow were long deep furrows. His white forelock gave the token
That his life had many years and many—many changes seen.
But he pressed his lips in silence—not a syllable was spoken,
Though an errand of importance augured in his look and mien.
While I wondered—while I pondered—much desiring, much expecting
To receive some explanation who this weirdly guest could be
Then, how time is often pictured as an old man, recollecting,
I exclaimed, with deep emotion,—“It is Father Time! — ’Tis he!!”
At his feet a grave was open and a heap of memories by it.
Some were sad and some were joyous, blended in a common store.
And I saw a stately coffin, with the old man standing nigh it,
And this name was on the coffin—Eighteen Hundred Ninety-Four.
Like as when an aged sexton who, with hands, by use, made steady,
Lays the body of an infant in its tiny tomb to sleep;
Even thus for solemn service was Old Father Time quite ready,
And within that grave the coffined corpse he lowered very deep.
Then he grasped his spade right firmly, his sharp mattock too uplifted,
And he shovelled on the coffin all the memories that lay
In that blended heap beside him; and each memory was gifted
With the power to be a witness of the year now passed away.
From this task he now unbended, and I saw the sudden gleaming
Of a smile among the wrinkles of his venerable face.
And his look became expressive of a kindly purpose, beaming
With intent to close his visit with some special act of grace.
Looking earnestly around him, as if something now was wanted,
He perceived a young green sapling lying ready to his hand.
To the new-filled grave he brought it; on that sacred spot ’twas planted;
Then he vanished: but behind him left the sapling there to stand.
Ere the vision had quite faded, I felt anxious to discover
What that tender plant betokened, standing there to grow and thrive;
And again, around and o’er me, gentle spirits seemed to hover,
And they called that young, green sapling, EIGHTEEN HUNDRED NINETY FIVE.
Return to the Quaint and Curious index for more pastiches and parodies of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven”.