New Year Greeting
By Louise R. Waite
Published by Librivox.org
Read by Algy Pug, David Lawrence, Ernst Pattynama, Lee Ann Howlett, Nicholas James bridgewater, Naseem, and ravenotation
The Poem and Reading:
Louise R. Waite was a Bahá’í poet and song writer. She wrote this poem, entitled “New Year Greeting”, for Naw-Rúz, 1909. Naw-Rúz actually occurs on March 21, not January 1, but is the start of the New Year in the Bahá’í religion. Starting the year on the first day of spring, is actually more sensible than January 1. Many cultures have done the same. The Vernal Equinox is fairly easy to spot by anyone willing to track the sun’s progress across the sky for a year and even easier to mark once it has been established. It is the time when the length of daytime is the same as the length of night in the spring (obviously this happens again in the autumn) and it is easy to see it as the beginning of the Earthly life cycle as plants sprout and flower, deciduous trees grow (and start growing) leaves for the warm season and so forth.
In comparison, January 1 is an arbitrary time to start a year, roughly a week and a half after the start of winter and while the days are already starting to get longer at that point, the sun is does not begin to rise earlier for another few days. Who’s to blame? Well, let’s blame the ancient Romans who chose to name the month after their two-faced god, Janus. Specifically, we can blame Julius Caesar who adopted the Julian Calendar, moving Rome from a lunar calendar to a solar one, similar to the one already in use by the Egyptians, and he was the one who decreed that the year would start in January rather than March as was previously done.
Then again, the practice e fell out of use during the Middle Ages as the inaccuracy of the Julian Calendar built up until January 1 was ten days “late” by the year 1000. This was eventually repaired by the Gregorian Calendar (and more recently adjusted here and there by a second or two when necessary) which once more placed the start of the year on January 1, at least in Western culture.
Except for mention about how the world is coming back to life in this poem and new growth, the feeling of new beginning is the same as we celebrate each New Year’s Eve and Day, so the poem is not out of place at this time of year, however. In fact, it fits in fairly well, once again save for mentions of spring and had this been an “Ode to Spring” I would not have even mentioned it. Of course, I also would not have chosen it for this particular post, but that is my fault, not the poet’s.
Unfortunately, while the poem seems to have found favor in its day, I was not at all pleased by it. The sentiments were fine. In fact, what she had to say about the rebirth signified by the beginning of a new year was beautiful, but I felt that the rhyming couplets were entirely too sing-song (a trait none of the readers were able to escape) and somewhat uninspired. So while what Louise Waite had to say was of note, the way she said it left me yawning, and depending on who was reading, enduring the torture until the recitation was over. One of the readers really tried too hard to make it a dramatic reading which seemed badly out of place too, but at least it was different. If you’re looking for this one, though, be advised there may be better readings out there.