‘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

 

 

 

‘Summer Wind’ a poem by William Cullen Bryant

If you are in midtown Manhattan on a summer afternoon you may want to take a break from work in Bryant Park. The park’s namesake is honored in a bronze memorial sculpted by Herbert Adams. From his pedestal on the rear terrace of the New York Public Library William Cullen Bryant presides over generations of fellow New Yorkers.

Bryant arrived in New York in 1826 to become assistant editor of the New York Evening Post, founded in 1801 by Alexander Hamilton. He his tenure with the paper would last five decades. He became one of America’s most popular poets, a civic leader and led the effort to create Central Park.

“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.” (Poetry Foundation)

His memorial was dedicated in 1911, coinciding with completion of construction on the library.

bryant

The Friday poem this week is ‘Summer Wind’ by William Cullen Bryant.

The poem was one of a series of 23 he submitted for publication in the Literary Gazette in 1824 while he was practicing law in Massachusetts. The image created by his verse recalls his memory of the landscape in the Berkshires.

Take a seat on one of those less than comfortable folding green chairs in Bryant Park and enjoy the Friday poem.

Summer Wind

It is a sultry day; the sun has drunk
The dew that lay upon the morning grass;
There is no rustling in the lofty elm
That canopies my dwelling, and its shade
Scarce cools me. All is silent, save the faint
And interrupted murmur of the bee,
Settling on the sick flowers, and then again
Instantly on the wing. The plants around
Feel the too potent fervors: the tall maize
Rolls up its long green leaves; the clover droops
Its tender foliage, and declines its blooms.
But far in the fierce sunshine tower the hills,
With all their growth of woods, silent and stern,
As if the scorching heat and dazzling light
Were but an element they loved. Bright clouds,
Motionless pillars of the brazen heaven–
Their bases on the mountains–their white tops
Shining in the far ether–fire the air
With a reflected radiance, and make turn
The gazer’s eye away. For me, I lie
Languidly in the shade, where the thick turf,
Yet virgin from the kisses of the sun,
Retains some freshness, and I woo the wind
That still delays his coming. Why so slow,
Gentle and voluble spirit of the air?
Oh, come and breathe upon the fainting earth
Coolness and life! Is it that in his caves
He hears me? See, on yonder woody ridge,
The pine is bending his proud top, and now
Among the nearer groves, chestnut and oak
Are tossing their green boughs about. He comes;
Lo, where the grassy meadow runs in waves!
The deep distressful silence of the scene
Breaks up with mingling of unnumbered sounds
And universal motion. He is come,
Shaking a shower of blossoms from the shrubs,
And bearing on their fragrance; and he brings
Music of birds, and rustling of young boughs,
And sound of swaying branches, and the voice
Of distant waterfalls. All the green herbs
Are stirring in his breath; a thousand flowers,
By the road-side and the borders of the brook,
Nod gayly to each other; glossy leaves
Are twinkling in the sun, as if the dew
Were on them yet, and silver waters break
Into small waves and sparkle as he comes.

William Cullen Bryant  1824