Home  »  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895  »  New Year’s Eve—Midnight

Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

Frederika Richardson Macdonald

New Year’s Eve—Midnight

DEAD. The dead year is lying at my feet;

In this strange hour the past and future meet;

There is no present; no land in the vast sea;

Appalled, I stand here in Eternity.

Darkness upon me. On my soul it weighs;

The gloom, that has crushed out the life of days

That once knew light, has crept into my heart;

I have not strength to bid it thence depart.

Oh, what is Time? and what is Life, the fire

That thrills my pulses with its large desire?

Since at each step I rend a fragment of my soul,

And growth means dying, whither is the goal?

The old, old question! yet I do not shrink

From bitter truths; I do not fear to drink

Even to the dregs the cup that tears may fill;

I ’d know God’s truth, though it were human ill.

I have cast down the idols in my mind

Which sought to comfort me for being blind;

I need no pleasant lie to cheat the night,

I need God’s Truth, that I may walk aright.

That, and that only! with unflinching eyes

I would tear through the secret of the skies;

Smile on, ye stars; in me there is a might

Which dares to scale your large empyreal height.

Yet—yet—how shall it be? Time sweeps me on,

And what one day I hold, the next is gone;

The very Heavens are changed! the face they wore,

A moment back, is lost to come no more.

My soul along the restless current drifts,

And to its sight the source of radiance shifts;

Wildly I strive some gleam of truth to save,

And cry, “God help me!” battling with the wave.

God help me? Well I know the prayer is vain,

Although it rush up to my lips again;

I know His help was given with the Breath

That leads me thus to struggle against death.

No further help. No help beyond the soul,

The fragment of Himself I hold in my control;

From heaven, no stronger aid to lead me through the fight:

In heaven, no higher aim to bind me to the Right.

Thus stand I on the brink of this new year,

Darkness upon me—not the work of fear.

Powerless I know to check the river’s sweep,

Powerful alone my own soul’s truth to keep.