Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ring out the new year? or greet it respectfully with the first rays of light

Simon Winchester writes about his regret over the slow spread of Celtic New Year's madness across the globe in his Wall Street Journal article, "The Case Against the New Year."

He blames this spread on clocks, Scots, and poets, namely, Burns and Tennyson. Whether we have Burns and Tennyson to blame for drinking too much and eating the wrong kinds of food on New Year's Eve, these poems are still worth reading today. Being a sentimental person living far away from family, I like to sing "Auld Lang Syne" (and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" for that matter) and shed some tears as I tak a cup o' kindness.

Tennyson mourns the death of his friends and imagines a new year that can do away with "ancient forms of party strife" and bring in "sweeter manners, and purer laws," "false pride in place and blood," and "narrowing lust of gold," and that may bring "a thousand years of peace." I don't think that there are many of us who wouldn't wish these same things.

I never thought that a Wall Street Journal article would lead me to poetry, so, maybe we can imagine some of these seeming impossibilities.

Burns's "Auld Lang Syne"

And for auld lang syne, my jo,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne,

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days o' auld lang syne.

And surely ye'll be your pint-stowp!
And surely I'll be mine!
And we'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes
And pu'd the gowans fine;
But we've wander'd mony a weary foot
Sin auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidl'd i' the burn,
Frae mornin' sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar'd
Sin auld lang syne.

And there's a hand, my trusty fiere!
And gie's a hand o' thine!
And we'll tak a right guid willy waught,
For auld lang syne.

And Tennyson's "Ring Out, Wild Bells" from his In Memoriam

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night--
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new--,
Ring happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

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,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land--
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

submitted by Rebecca Stuhr

Find Robert Burns and Alfred Lord Tennyson at Burling Library

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