December 31, 2010

The good old year is with the past

"A Song for New Year's Eve" (1857) by William Cullen Bryant:

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.


  1. Hello Rob,

    I am so moved by your beautiful closure on the year by Wm C. Bryant (many thanks).

    Along with the powerful poetic entry, the photograph of Bryant is uncanny, as it parallels a card from the DruidCraft Tarot for the 7 of Swords. Wish I could reproduce it here for you to see.

    Regardless, I wish to thank you for a year-long (and this, after your bicentennial Poe calendar) adventure, exploration, love-song, and more, into nineteenth-century American literature, the known and less-so. Your posts have infused and inspired my appreciation of the writers, celebrated and not.

    So kudos and best wishes re your efforts for the future of old American literature. I (and no-doubt many others) "salute you."

    Happy New Year

  2. Thank you for your kind comment, Anonymous! I've said it many times, the most surprising part about this blog is that people actually read it, but it's even better to know that people enjoy it!

    This image of Bryant, by the way, is the source of the banner image on the blog.

  3. Rob,

    Hey, thanks for the "banner image" addendum: a lovely touch. As a former curatorial assistant in the then-fledgling Department of Photographs at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, I can't resist the question: any info on the photographer? Thanks.

  4. Sorry to take so long in responding. I haven't found much more info about the image. I grabbed it from the NYPL digital archives, which offers no additional detail. It looks somewhat like the Mathew Brady studio, but it's likely later than his most well-known period(circa 1870s?). Anyone out there who can help out, feel free to jump in.

  5. Hey Rob,
    Many thanks for taking the time to check into the WCB image. A list of "celebrity portraits" on view at Brady's Daguerrean Gallery as-of Dec. 12, 1850, includes Bryant's name, although it certainly couldn't have been "your" portrait, as WCB would have been only 56 at the time. Of course Brady photographed several authors more than once (Poe included) in his quest to, as he told the "New York World" late in his life, "preserve the faces of [the country's] historic men and mothers." (Interesting comment.)

    Also, as an editor and ex-NPG employee, I so appreciate your spelling his given name correctly: one "t." That and Edgar "Allen" Poe are mistakes one sees all too often. Thanks again.

  6. I'm glad you noticed the single "t"!

    Oh, don't get me started on Poe! That's why I generally drop his "middle name" or just abbreviate to "A." I'm hoping other people will pick up on it as well - problem solved?

  7. ...and didn't Edgar (Eddie) often drop the "Allan" part of his name himself, given the difficult relationship with his foster father, of which we know so much? So "Edgar A. Poe" seems a decent solution.
    [This is meant as a rhetorical question; no need to respond.]

    Thanks again for going the "extra mile" with my question re the WCB photo. It's still a great image, and worthy of your banner.