At the Entering of the New Year
Our songs went up and out the chimney,
And roused the home-gone husbandmen;
Our allemands, our heys, poussettings,
Our hands-across and back again,
Sent rhythmic throbbings through the casements
On to the white highway,
Where nighted farers paused and muttered,
“Keep it up well, do they!”
The contrabasso’s measured booming
Sped at each bar to the parish bounds,
To shepherds at their midnight lambings,
To stealthy poachers on their rounds;
And everybody caught full duly
The notes of our delight,
As Time unrobed the Youth of Promise
Hailed by our sanguine sight.
We stand in the dusk of a pine-tree limb,
As if to give ear to the muffled peal,
Brought or withheld at the breeze’s whim;
But our truest heed is to words that steal
From the mantled ghost that looms in the gray,
And seems, so far as our sense can see,
To feature bereaved Humanity,
As it sighs to the imminent year its say:—
“O stay without, O stay without,
Calm comely Youth, untasked, untired;
Though stars irradiate thee about
Thy entrance here is undesired.
Open the gate not, mystic one;
Must we avow what we would close confine?
With thee, good friend, we would have converse none,
Albeit the fault may not be thine.”
Dec. 31. During the War.
Hardy has two companion poems under the umbrella title of “At the Entering of the New Year”. The “old style” people are singing, dancing, having fun and time unrobes the “Youth of Promise”–the New Year. Yet the “New Style” is bleak. Humanity is “bereaved”.
The division between old and new underscores the pessimism and lack of joy in the now. Humanity is now begging the youth to stay away–to come not here. The “New Style” acknowledges the raging of World War I. The youthful ones should stay away and are not welcome. How can we welcome a “youth of promise” now that war has unleashed its murderous poison from the skies?
Hardy has several poems that treat the first great war and the haplessness of the people caught up in its madness. The singing and dancing of previous years can no longer go on: there is nothing to celebrate and no clear transition between the dates while all are bogged down in war.