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which rings out the old year. I never hear it without a gathering-up of my mind to a concentration of all the images that have been diffused over the past twelvemonth; all I have done or suffered, performed or neglected, in that regretted time. I begin to know its worth, as when a person dies. It takes a personal colour. Nor was it a poetical flight in a contemporary, when he exclaimed,
"I saw the skirts of the departing year."
The elders with whom I was brought up were of a character not likely to let slip the sacred observance of any old institution; and the ringing out of the old year was kept by them with circumstances of peculiar ceremony. In those days, the sound of those midnight chimes, although it seemed to raise hilarity in all around me, never failed to bring a train of pensive imagery into my fancy. Yet I then scarce conceived what it meant, or thought of it as a reckoning that concerned me. Not childhood alone, but the young man till thirty, never feels practically that he is mortal.'
So far Elia. I envy him, I envy any man, the retrospective grasp of faculty which can faithfully bring back the personal events of a year that is gone; all that one did, suffered, neglected. For my part--and, I doubt not, I here put down a common experience, although
'No compound of this earthly ball,
Is like another all in all'
-in any effort to revive the past, I am generally tantalized by images of the most trivial things of the period, to the utter exclusion, or worse, to the degradation, of the solemn background upon which the trifles were painted by the finger of circumstantial phantasy. It is as if, when I called upon Imagination to show me the terrors of the Eleusinian pageantry, she put me off with a performance of Marionnettes. Something of the same kind happens, I believe, to minds of a certain order, when they attempt to realize an approaching future of great moment. On the night before the wedding, Sir, I am bold to aver, you saw not your crowned bride, with a tremble on her beautiful lips, and a light in her waiting eyes; all you could do would not bring her. No, your 'perspective' was 'blotted' with the cockade of the postman who brought you a newspaper yesterday, or the forewheel of the twopenny omnibus which crushed a tin kettle in your sight six months ago. With the observation that painters and poets who avowedly aim to represent events as remembered too often neglect this fact in psychology, I pass on.
Well-a-day! You begin to think that all this has as much to do with the Poetry of the New Year as Jenkinson's cosmogony with the Vicar's remark, or Knickerbocker's with New York. But if you con
ceive me a man to cut down or to stretch his matter to suit the impertinent Procrustes-bed of a title, you are labouring under a delusion, which I recommend you to shake off at once, to prevent misunderstandings. However, it is all about bells, and if I were to glance off to Muscovy and set Tsar-Kolokol a ringing, I insist that,
considering New Year's Eve is the great chiming-time, all the world over, you ought not to complain. However, I spare you that, and invite your attention at this period of the common birth-day to an Association little known to the general public, but of which I and some other choice spirits are members. For full particulars I refer you to the Clovernook' of Mr. Douglas Jerrold; but the scope and design of the Institution will be sufficiently clear from the questions which are put to every candidate for admission into THE TWENTYFIVE CLUB, and from the vow of the neophyte, both which I shall quote. First, the questions:
1. ARE YOU OLDER THAN FIVE-AND-TWENTY?
2. Will you ever, forgetful of what you owe to yourself, and to the beauty, benevolence, and everlasting spirit of nature, will you ever, wantonly, ignobly, and most foolishly consent to become more than five-and-twenty, even though your face should be wrinkled like windblown water, your hair white as the surging sea?'
Mind, you may be as old as 'Old Jacob Townshend' (of venerable sarsaparilla renown), and yet join this club. Whom the gods love die young,' is, believe me, Sir, or Madam, a mistake-decidedly a mistake. 'Whom the gods love live young,' that is the divine formula of life. Recognise it, understand it, and then listen to the adjuration of the neophyte of the TWENTY-FIVE CLUB::
'You promise, and especially promise from this day, -never to grow a day older than the days that make five-and-twenty years, the only reasonable time of life of man?
"This you promise, that your eyes may still behold the same beauty in the stars? that your heart may still beat with the rising sun, and melt when he is setting in his tent of glory?
"This you promise,-that you may have eyes and ears for the world of beauty and gladness that encompasses you; no beauty fading, no sound of gladness growing dumb?
By the ever-springing loveliness of flowers-by the ever-sounding music of the birds-by the rivers and fountains-by harvest-time, and by the season of fruits -you promise to remain spiritually fixed at five-and-twenty?
"I promise," said the candidate. And as he spoke, he laid his hands upon the fruits and flowers, and emptied the crystal goblet to solemnize the compact. 'Be ever steadfast, and be ever five-and-twenty! The eyes fail; the back bows; the hair is whitened; youth departs from every joint and every organ-but the heart, if the owner wills it-the heart is ever young.'
O friend! have you listened to that? While you listened, was there an undertone of solemn thought in your soul, which whispered of youth renewed like the eagle's;' of the unwithering leaf of the tree which is planted by the stream that makes glad the City of God; of the serpent-wisdom and dove-innocence of the Child of the Kingdom? Then let us take up a song together, while the clock with its advancing finger, and pendulous tongue heard above the occasional pulsations of the dying fire, measures off the last hour of the one thousand eight hundred and fifty-sixth year of the Grace of Our Lord. True, those clamorous bells give me pain; but it will not be any the heavier for being shared by you, and you, and you--besides my own proper circle, who may watch with me. Is your heart in tune? RING OUT,' then, I say:
'RING OUT, wild bells, to the wild sky,
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out, my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.
Ring out false pride in place and blood,
Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Great was that critic-by the way, he wrote in 'The Critic'-great was he, who tauntingly asked, after this fine chaunt, Who, Alfred Tennyson, tell us, if you can, who is "the Christ that is to be?" He might have spared his question. Our Lord is Jesus, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. But He is seen, like the sun, from different points, and through different atmospheres. If Tennyson had written Ring in the Sun that is to be,' meaning to-morrow's, would he have been guilty of intimating the supersession of that primeval lamp which lighted new-born Eve to her lord-waited to dip behind Gibeon-flashed triumphant splendour on the unlifted spear of the ghastly Assyrian—and lay 'from the sixth hour unto the ninth,' quenched in the shadow of the hand that smote the Holy One? No critic would dream of such a thing. And how one writer challenging another for such an expression from the Christian stand-point could have forgotten 2 Cor. v. 16, is utterly beyond my comprehension. To Paul himself, were there not two Christs-the Christ after the flesh,' whom he there abjures, and God's 'crucified Christ,' ordained from before the foundation of the world? But-and this thought is not an agrceable one to a poetic mind
the new year of the calendar is not the new year of the poets. See how beautifully Shelley puts this:
'Orphan hours, the year is dead,
For your mother in her shroud.
As the wild air stirs and sways
The tree-swung cradle of a child,
January grey is here,
Like a sexton by her grave;
March with grief doth howl and rave;
Follow with May's fairest flowers.'
Yes! the funeral of a Dead Year is a matter of moment, of leisurely pomp, and patient ceremony. January is only the sexton or grave-digger-many-vested, and double-faced for either laughing or crying, like his typical congener in Hamlet; February has to come with the bier; March is the loud-voiced professional mourner; April the 'fool of nature,' who sheds some natural tears, but wipes them soon.' Let all things be done decently, and in order. Why so hot, little Sir?' Respect the naturlangsamkeit' of Time! If you are bent upon hurrying him for what he brings, hear how solemnly he can bespeak your impatience :
'Mourn, O rejoicing heart!
The hours are flying,
Each one some treasure takes-
And leaves it dying;
The chill dark night draws near,
And leave thee sighing;
Then mourn, rejoicing heart,
The hours are flying!'
While still more strongly to impress the lesson upon eager-handed
*I do not make this paper a rifacciamento of what is to be found in Hone's 'Every-day Book,' and has been dragged through all the periodicals immemorially -but I suppose almost every one knows that January takes its name from the Roman god Janus, whose two-sided face indicated his knowledge of past and future; or- ?
Passion, he turns benignantly to Patience, counting the slow clocktick on her pallet of pain, saying
'Rejoice, O grieving heart!
The hours fly fast;
With each some sorrow dies-
Until at last
The red dawn in the east
Bids weary night depart,
Rejoice, then, grieving heart,
The hours fly fast!'*
Be sober, then; be vigilant. Yet not weakly regretful of the past, or wickedly curious of the future. Think not too much of an` odd trick lost or won. The stakes of the great game are in safe hands. From George Herbert suffer the word of admonition—
"Thy life is God's, thy time to come is gone,
And is his right.
'Our God is just!' But is He not the Lord of Beauty as well as of Right? Is not the Earth His, with her thousand rejoicing Isles, and the fulness thereof? And are not all things' yours? I shall not think well of you, unless you long for the New Year which is really new, the new year of the poets, when the Lord of Beauty visits the Earth with whispers of love in the south wind, and intimations of his bounty in the warm touch of the broadening sunshine. Call her, then, the 'sweet New Year,' from afar, singing or saying, after Tennyson
'Dip down upon the northern shore,
Delaying long, delay no more.
I believe William Allingham to be the author of these verses, which I copy from 'Household Words.'