A Song for New Year’s Eve

By William Cullen Bryant

Published by Librivox

Read by Various

 First of all:

My handful of faithful readers probably recall that I generally post a new one of my books every New Year’s Eve (or shortly after Midnight if I am running late. I am sorry to say that the e-Book edition of An Island without a Shore, the conclusion of the series I call “The Wayfarers” is running a bit late. I have certainly read it enough, but once I lost all my edits when I saved the wrong file and then I lost them all again when the tablet I was proof-reading on lost all my notes. Nothing like finding the same mistakes three times. What’s worse is that I’ve read it all through at least seven times now, but when I saved that file wrong I lost all the edits and went back to the rough draft. How I managed not to lose anything when my system crashed and I had to rebuild the whole computer I can only attribute to the virtues of regular backups. Anyway, the next release will be a bit late but I am plugging on and hope to have it out soon. If nothing else I want to read something (Anything!) else now.

And now back to my weekly blog:

 

The Poem:

Stay yet, my friends, a moment stay—
Stay till the good old year,
So long companion of our way,
Shakes hands, and leaves us here.
Oh stay, oh stay,
One little hour, and then away.

The year, whose hopes were high and strong,
Has now no hopes to wake;
Yet one hour more of jest and song
For his familiar sake.
Oh stay, oh stay,
One mirthful hour, and then away.

The kindly year, his liberal hands
Have lavished all his store.
And shall we turn from where he stands,
Because he gives no more?
Oh stay, oh stay,
One grateful hour, and then away.

Days brightly came and calmly went,
While yet he was our guest;
How cheerfully the week was spent!
How sweet the seventh day’s rest!
Oh stay, oh stay,
One golden hour, and then away.

Dear friends were with us, some who sleep
Beneath the coffin-lid:
What pleasant memories we keep
Of all they said and did!
Oh stay, oh stay,
One tender hour, and then away.

Even while we sing, he smiles his last,
And leaves our sphere behind.
The good old year is with the past;
Oh be the new as kind!
Oh stay, oh stay,
One parting strain, and then away.

I think the poem pretty much speaks for itself. Although the author is saying this at 11PM on New Year’s Eve, in some ways it sounds like the pleading of desperate loneliness of a man with a successful party for the first time in years who just does not want it to end. Maybe I am reading too much into it. The plea is obviously to the Old Year as it nears its end. I guess it was a very good year.

My other observation involves the line about having friends there who sleep beneath coffin lids. Okay, obviously this is a poetic cross between Auld Lang Syne and a toast to “Absent Friends.” I understand he is steeping in memories of good friends who are no longer there, but somehow that particular wording made me wonder if the poem was being spoken by Gomez Addams or if he knew Abby Sciuto. Why images of Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee did not spring to my mind is a mystery.

In all, I guess the short poem is both an interesting farewell to the out-going year and a description of party rapidly nearing its end. However, while Bryant captured the sweet memories of a year gone by, he seems to have neglected the feeling of hope associated with the incoming New Year. Then again I am not well acquainted with the poems of William Cullen Bryant, perhaps an “Ode to the New Year” was his next piece.

 

The Audio Collection:

Librivox published the poem as a short audiobook in which it was read by eleven different readers. It might have been an even dozen, one for each hour on a standard clock, but perhaps they decided that since the poem is written to take place an hour before midnight, that eleven was the correct number, or decided that twenty-three readings of the poem might be excessive.

Indeed, eleven might have been a bit much considering my car’s audio system automatically started over again once the final reading was over, leaving me with a justified feeling of déjà vu. The readers were, as might be expected, a mixed bag, some reading better than others. However, I found it very interesting to listen to the varied interpretations of the poem as the readers spoke the lines. So while the words might have been repetitive, the experience changed from reader to reader.

It only takes about half an hour to listen to all of them, and from a literary point of view that might be a brief bit of time well spent, or else play the recording some New Year’s Even around 11:00PM.

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