New Year’s Eve is traditionally a time to reflect on the year just ending and look forward to the year about to begin. Even magazines do this! Looking through our old volumes, it’s always been interesting to see what editors past have made of that time between one year and the next.
We’ve spent quite a bit of time in our Archives department in recent years, researching back issues of the “Friend”. That hasn’t been possible for most of us this year, and we’ve missed our visits.
Doing a New Year tidy-up of my computer files, I found this poem from the New Year issue for 1882. It’s by Annie S. Swan, already a “Friend” favourite writer by then. Although it was written 139 years ago, it still feels quite apt for 2020, the year that none of us could have anticipated – and none of us is likely to forget! I like its optimistic message at the end.
Like Annie, the “Friend” wishes all readers healing and togetherness in 2021.
The Old Year
The air is chill and frosty
On this bleak December day,
And the grey sea sobs and tosses
Beyond the wintry bay.
The wild discordant screaming
Of the sea birds on the wing,
Gives the mariner timely warning
Of the storm the night will bring
The newly upturned furrows
Are black with the hungry crows;
In the leafless trees the robins
Sit shivering on the boughs,
And the wind in the lonely pinewood
Stirs the trees with a dreary moan ¬–
A dirge for the bygone summer,
And the year that is almost done.
For the sad old year is dying
In the chill December air;
Oh, pause in your sorrow or gladness,
And utter a passing prayer!
Oh, think what a record he carries,
What a burden of sorrow and care!
Of vows and of promises broken,
Of which we have all had a share.
The sad old year is dying,
And the new is sweeping in;
God grant it may bring blessing
And healing on its wing!
That men may see the beauty
Of love to a brother man,
That the truths of the grand old lesson,
Heard since the world began,
May scatter the mists and the shadows,
The feud and the bitter strife,
And show to the earth’s erring children
A new and a higher life.
ANNIE S. SWAN.
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