Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, ON THE NEW YEAR, by JANE BOWDLER



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ON THE NEW YEAR, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Tis past: - another year for ever gone
Last Line: And lead my soul to peace—to bliss—to thee!
Subject(s): Greetings; Happiness; Holidays; New Year; Peace; Joy; Delight


'TIS past:—another year for ever gone
Proclaims the end of all;—with awful voice
It calls the soul to thought. A while she turns
From present scenes, and wanders o'er the past;
Or, darting forward, strives to pierce the veil
Which hides from mortal eyes the time to come.

O Thou, to grateful mem'ry ever dear!
Whom fond affection still delights to name!
Whom still my heart exults to call 'My Friend!'
In fancy yet be present.——Oft with Thee
In many a lonely walk and silent shade
My soul holds converse!—oft recalls the hours
When pleas'd attention hung upon thy voice,
While the pure dictates of celestial Truth
In Friendship's gentlest accents charm'd my ear,
And sooth'd each anxious thought, and shew'd the way
Which leads to present peace and future bliss:—
Though now far distant, yet in thought be near,
And share with me Reflection's sacred hour.
And oh! to Thee may each revolving year
Its choicest blessings bring! May Heavenly Peace,
To every thoughtless mind unknown—pursued
In vain through scenes of visionary good—
That peace which dwells with piety alone,
Still on thy steps through every stage attend!
And purest joy from Virtue's sacred source,
Blest in the thought of many a well-spent day,
Blest in the prospect of unbounded bliss,
Cheer every hour, and triumph in the last!

As when a traveller, who long has rov'd
Through many a varied path, at length attains
Some eminence, from whence he views the land
Which late he pass'd—groves, streams, and lawns appear,
And hills with flocks adorn'd, and lofty woods;
And ev'ry charm which Nature's hand bestows
In rich profusion decks the smiling scene—
No more he views the rugged thorny way,
The steep ascent, the slippery path, which led
High o'er the brink of some rude precipice;
Unnumber'd beauties, scarce observ'd before,
At once combine to charm his raptur'd view,
And backward turning, oft in transport lost,
His toils and dangers past no more are felt,
But long and tedious seems the road to come:——
Thus oft, when youth is fled, when health decays,
And cares perplex, and trifling pleasures cloy;
Sick of vain hopes and tir'd of present scenes,
The soul returns to joys she feels no more,
And backward casts her view. Then Fancy comes
In Memory's form, and gilds the long-past days,
Recalls the faded images of joy,
Paints every happy moment happier still;
But hides each anxious fear, and heartfelt pang,
Each pleasure lost, and hope pursued in vain,
Which oft o'erspread with gloom the gayest hour,
And taught ev'n Youth and Innocence to mourn.

O Happiness, in every varied scene,
Thro' toil, thro' danger, and thro' pain pursued!
Yet oft when present scarce enjoy'd,—when past,
Recall'd to wound the heart, to blast the sweets
Yet given to life:——How are thy votaries,
Misled by vain delusions, thus deceiv'd?
Let rising Hope, for ever on the wing,
Still point to distant good, to perfect bliss;
While conscious of superior pow'rs, the soul
Exulting hears her call, and longs to soar
To scenes of real and unfading joy.
Yet while on earth some feeble rays are shed
To cheer the mournful gloom:—oh! let not man
Reject the proffer'd gift!—With innocence
And gratitude enjoy'd, each present good
Beyond the fleeting moment may extend
Its pleasing force.——When Nature's varied charms,
In all the gayest lustre of the spring,
Delight the wond'ring view!—while every grove
With artless music hails the rising morn,
The sportive lambkins play, the shepherd sings,
Creation smiles, and every bosom feels
The general joy;—oh! say, from scenes like these
Shall not the sweet impressions still remain
Of Innocence and Peace, and social Love,
To bless the future hour?—When the glad heart
Exulting beats at Friendship's sacred call,
And feels what language never can express:
While every joy exalted and refin'd,
And each tumultuous passion charm'd to peace,
Own the sweet influence of its matchless power;
(That power which ev'n o'er grief itself can shed
A heavenly beam, when pleasure courts in vain,
And wealth and honours pass unheeded by:)
Shall joys like these, on Virtue's basis rais'd,
Like Fancy's vain delusions pass away?
Oh, no!—Nor time, nor absence, shall efface
The ever dear remembrance; ev'n when past,
When deep affliction mourns the blessing gone,
Yet shall that blessing be for ever priz'd,
For ever felt.——When heaven-born Charity
Expands the heart, and prompts the liberal hand
To sooth distress, supply the various wants
Of friendless poverty, and dry the tears
Which bathe the widow's cheek, whose dearest hope
Is snatch'd away, and helpless orphans ask
That aid she cannot give:—Say, shall the joy
(Pure as the sacred source from whence it springs)
Which then exalts the soul, shall this expire?——
The grass shall wither, and the flower shall fade,
But Heaven's eternal Word shall still remain,
And Heaven's eternal Word pronounc'd it blest.

Ye calm delights of Innocence and Peace!
Ye joys by Virtue taught, by Heaven approv'd!
Is there a heart, which, lost in selfish views,
Ne'er felt your pleasing force, ne'er knew to share
Another's joy, or heave a tender sigh
For sorrows not its own;—which all around
Beholds a dreary void, where Hope perhaps
May dart a feeble ray, but knows not where
To point its aim? (For real good, unknown
While present, is pursued, but ne'er attain'd)
Is there a heart like this? At such a sight,
Let soft Compassion drop a silent tear,
And Charity reluctant turn away
From woes she ne'er shall feel, nor can relieve.
But oh! let those whom Heaven has taught to feel
The purest joys which mortals e'er can know,
With gratitude recall the blessings given,
Though grief succeed; nor e'er with envy view
That calm which cold indifference seems to share,
And think those happy who can never lose
That good they never knew:—for joys like these
Refine, ennoble, elevate the mind;
And never, never, shall succeeding woes
Efface the blest impression:—Grief itself
Retains it still; while Hope exulting comes
To snatch them from the power of time and death,
And tell the soul—They never shall decay.

When Youth and Pleasure gild the smiling morn,
And Fancy scatters roses all around,
What blissful visions rise! In prospect bright
A while they charm the soul: but scarce attain'd,
The gay delusion fades.——Another comes,
The soft enchantment is again renew'd,
And Youth again enjoys the airy dreams
Of fancied good.——But ah! how oft ev'n these
By stern Affliction's hand are snatch'd away,
Ere yet experience proves them vain, and shews
That earthly pleasures to a heavenly mind
Are but the shadows of substantial bliss!
But Pleasure rais'd by Virtue's powerful charm,
Above each transient view, each meaner aim,
Can bless the present hour, and lead the soul
To brighter prospects, rich in every good
Which man can feel, or Heaven itself bestow.

While thus returning o'er the long-past scenes
Of former life, the mind recalls to view
The strange vicissitudes of grief and joy,
O may the grateful heart for ever own
The various blessings given! nor dare repine
At ills which all must share; or deem those ills
From Chance or Fate (those empty names which veil
The ignorance of man) could ever flow;
But warn'd alike by Pleasure and by Pain,
That higher joys await the virtuous mind
Than aught on earth can yield, in every change
Adore that Power which rules the whole, and gives,
In Pleasure's charms, in Sorrow's keenest pangs,
The means of good, the hope—the pledge of bliss.

Thou rising year, now opening to my view,
Yet wrapp'd in darkness—whither dost thou lead?
What is Futurity?——It is a time
When joys, unknown to former life, may shed
Their brightest beams on each succeeding day;
When Health again may bloom, and Pleasure smile,
(By Pain no more allay'd) and new delights
On every changing season still attend;
Each morn returning wake the soul to joy
From balmy slumbers, undisturb'd by care;
Success still wait on Hope; and every hour
In peace and pleasure gently glide away.——
But ah! how rare on earth are years like this!
In the dark prospect of Futurity,
Far other scenes than these may yet remain:
Affliction there may aim her keenest shafts
To tear the heart,—while pain and sickness waste
The feeble frame by slow-consuming pangs,
And ease and comfort lost are sought in vain;
For there, perhaps, no friendly voice may cheer
The tedious hours of grief, but all around
Expiring joys and blasted hopes appear,
New woes succeed to woes, and every good
On earth be snatched away.—How then shall man
Salute the rising year?—Shall cheerful Hope
Receive the welcome guest; or Terror wait
In speechless anguish the impending storm?—
Presumptuous mortal, cease:—O turn thine eyes
On the dark mansions of the silent dead,
And check the bold enquiry;—never more
The rising sun may shed its beams on thee;
Perhaps, ev'n now, the fatal hour is come
Which ends at once thy earthly hopes and fears,
And seals thy doom through vast eternity.—
How awful is the thought! and who shall say
It is not just? What mortal shall disclose
The dark decrees of Heaven?——But grant, to life
A longer date affign'd, another year
On earth bestow'd; in deepest shades conceal'd
Its good or ill remains; no mortal hand
Can draw the veil which hides it from thy view.
Hence then, ye airy dreams by fancy led!
Vain hopes, and vainer fears—deceive no more!
In native lustre bright let Truth appear,
With her pure beams illume the dark unknown,
And shew what man of future days can know.

What is Futurity?——It is a time
By Heaven in mercy giv'n, where all may find
Their best, their truest good, the means, the power,
To elevate their nature, to exert
Each nobler faculty, and still to rise
In every virtue.——Here the best may find
Improvement: for what mortal e'er attain'd
Perfection's utmost point?—And here ev'n those,
Who long, by vice and folly led astray,
Forsook the paths of wisdom and of truth,
May yet return, and with new ardour seek
That long-neglected good, which, though despis'd,
Rejected once, may here be yet attain'd.——

Know then, whoe'er thou art, on whom high Heaven
Another year of life will now bestow,
That year may lead thee to eternal peace,
May cancel follies past, redeem the time
In thoughtless dissipation once abus'd,
Dispel the shades of vice, the gloom of care,
Call forth each latent virtue, and impart
New strength, new hopes, and joys which ne'er shallfail.

Then hail, bright prospect of the rising year!
The school of virtue, and the road to bliss!——
No more the shades of doubt are spread around;
No more ideal pleasures deck the scene
With airy forms of good, which Fancy's self
Scarce dares enjoy; no more by terror led
A train of woes in long succession rise,
And deepest horror o'er the time to come
Extends her baleful influence;—by the power
Of Truth subdued, at once they disappear,
And surer hopes and brighter views arise,
Than Pleasure e'er could give, or Pain destroy,
To chase each vain delusion far away,
And shew the glorious prize which future days
May yet attain.——This, this alone is sure:
The rest, involv'd in dark uncertainty,
But mocks our search:—But oh! how blest the path
(Whate'er it be) which leads to endless rest!——

Then let Affliction come;—shall man complain
Of seeming ills, which Heaven in mercy sends
To check his vain pursuits, exalt his views,
Improve his virtues, and direct the soul
To seek that aid which ne'er can fail, that aid
Which all who seek shall find? Oh! in the hour
Of deepest horror, when the throbbing heart,
Oppress'd with anguish, can sustain no more,
May Patience still, and Resignation, come
To cheer the gloom!—not such as his who boasts
Superior powers, a mind above the reach
Of human weakness, yet with ardour seeks
The frail support of transitory praise;—
Or his, who trembling at an unknown power,
Submits in silence to Omnipotence,
And struggling checks the murmurs of his breast;—
But that sweet Peace, that heartfelt Confidence,
(By heavenly hope and filial love inspir'd,
In Truth's inviolable word secure)
Which pain and sorrow never can destroy;
Which smile triumphant in the gloom of woe,
And own a Father's pow'r, a Father's love
O'er all presiding.——Blest in thoughts like these
The mourner's heart still feels a secret joy,
Which pleasure ne'er could yield:—no murmurs now
Disturb its peace;—but every wish resign'd
To Wisdom, Power, and Goodness infinite,
Celestial hope and comfort beam around
O'er all the prospect of succeeding time,
And never-fading glories close the scene.

O THOU, great source of every good! by whom
This heart was taught to beat, these thoughts to range
O'er the wide circuit of the universe,
To soar beyond the farthest bounds of time,
And pant for bliss which earth could ne'er bestow;—
While worlds unnumber'd tremble at thy power,
And hosts celestial own their loftiest strain
Too weak to tell thy praise;—O how shall man
E'er lift his voice to Thee!——Yet at thy call
Thy servant comes. O hear my humble prayer:—
By thy Almighty power direct, sustain
My feeble efforts; and whate'er the lot
To me on earth assign'd, O guide me still,
By the blest light of thy eternal truth,
Through every varied scene of joy or woe;
Support my weakness by thy mighty aid,
And lead my soul to Peace—to Bliss—to Thee!




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