‘A Song for New Year’s Eve’ a poem by William Cullen Bryant

As revelers welcome the New Year in New York’s Times Square, a few blocks away, skaters will circle a temporary ice rink in Bryant Park, named for the editor and poet William Cullen Bryant. The Friday Poem this week is ‘A Song for New Year’s Eve’ written in New York and first published in Harpers Magazine in January 1859.

“In 1884, Reservoir Square was renamed Bryant Park, to honor recently deceased Romantic poet, longtime editor of the New York Evening Post, and civic reformer, William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878). Around this time, the city approved designs for the New York Public Library, submitted by architects John Merven Carrére and Thomas Hastings. The Beaux-Arts building was completed in 1911, with a raised terrace at the rear of the library and two comfort stations at the east end of Bryant Park.”

Bryant began his career studying and practicing law. He wrote poetry from an early age and continued this passion in parallel with his legal career. Later, as editor-in-chief of the New York Evening Post, he exerted considerable influence in local, state, and national politics.

“When Bryant appraised his prospects after leaving Williams College in 1811, his passion for writing poetry appeared to be utterly without promise of a remunerative career. Except for Benjamin Franklin, no American writer had managed to support himself and his family with his pen, however meanly, and verse was patently an occupation for idlers. But in 1836, when the Harper brothers took Bryant into their publishing house, he was a most valuable asset. Numerous reprintings of his books spread his popularity still further, and the firm’s generous royalty made him the richest poet in American history.”

“No line of his poetry survives in the consciousness of his nation, and none of his editorial pronouncements still resonates from his five decades with the New-York Evening Post, yet William Cullen Bryant stood among the most celebrated figures in the frieze of nineteenth-century America. The fame he won as a poet while in his youth remained with him as he entered his eighties; only Longfellow and Emerson were his rivals in popularity over the course of his life.

On this final day of 2015 let’s revisit a once revered national figure and his poem for New Year’s Eve.

A Song for New Year’s Eve

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.

William Cullen Bryant   1794-1878

 

 

 

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