Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Friend Stands at the Door

A Psalm for New Year's Eve
by Dinah Maria Craik


1855.

A friend stands at the door;
In either tight-closed hand
Hiding rich gifts, three hundred and three score:
Waiting to strew them daily o'er the land
Even as seed the sower.
Each drops he, treads it in and passes by:
It cannot be made fruitful till it die.

O good New Year, we clasp
This warm shut hand of thine,
Loosing forever, with half sigh, half gasp,
That which from ours falls like dead fingers' twine:
Ay, whether fierce its grasp
Has been, or gentle, having been, we know
That it was blessed: let the Old Year go.

O New Year, teach us faith!
The road of life is hard:
When our feet bleed and scourging winds us scathe,
Point thou to Him whose visage was more marred
Than any man's: who saith
"Make straight paths for your feet" — and to the opprest --
"Come ye to Me, and I will give you rest."

Yet hang some lamp-like hope
Above this unknown way,
Kind year, to give our spirits freer scope
And our hands strength to work while it is day.
But if that way must slope
Tombward, O bring before our fading eyes
The lamp of life, the Hope that never dies.

Comfort our souls with love, — Love of all human kind;
Love special, close — in which like sheltered dove
Each weary heart its own safe nest may find;
And love that turns above
Adoringly; contented to resign
All loves, if need be, for the Love Divine.

Friend, come thou like a friend,
And whether bright thy face,
Or dim with clouds we cannot comprehend,—
We 'll hold out patient hands, each in his place,
And trust thee to the end.
Knowing thou leadest onwards to those spheres
Where there are neither days nor months nor years.

I like the conceit of days as seeds, unable to be fruitful until they die. I know almost nothing about Craik except that she was best known in her day as a novelist. But glancing through her early short story collection, Avillion and Other Tales (that's just volume 1), it looked very interesting, as did her fantasy novel (as we would call it today), Alice Learmont. I have about a jillion things to do at the moment, but I'll have to add them to the list.

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