Extract from a New Year Address.

Specimens of American Poetry. 3 Vols [Samuel Kettell, ed.]

Willis Gaylord Clark

Seven Spenserians: Willis Gaylord Clark muses Ossianically on mutabilty and the turning of the years. Not seen.

Evert A. and George L. Duyckinck: "Clark's poems, with the exception of The Spirit of Life — pronounced before the Franklin Society of Brown University in 1833 — are brief, and were written for and published in his own journals and the magazines and annuals of the day. A portion were collected in a volume during his lifetime, and a complete edition appeared in New York in 1847.... The humors and sensibility of the essayist and poet, alike witness to his warm, amiable sympathies. His mirth was rollicking, exuberant in animal spirits, but always innocent, while his muse dwelt fondly on the various moods of nature, and portrayed domestic tenderness in the consolations of its darker hours of suffering and death" Cyclopedia of American Literature (1856) 2:534-36.

Come to my soul, thou Spirit of the Lyre!
'Tis the deep, cloudy midnight; and the wail
Of the cold wind is on its strings of fire,
And on the far hills, rising, dimly pale!
Ah! wake thy murmurs on the troubled gale—
Pour the sad requiem o'er the dying year—
Give to man's thoughtful eye a passing tale
Of days departed, bright as beauty's tear,
Or summer's festal sky, ere autumn clouds drew near!

From the dark sepulchre of years gone by,
A deeply mournful voice is murmuring,
"Where are the dreams of old! — the spirit high
Mounting like eagles on the fearless wing?
Where is the pride of that luxuriant spring,
Which pour'd its light on Rome — on Babylon?
—The wreaths of Time around their temples cling—
Their halls are dust! — the gold of Chaldee won—
Where sails the bittern's wing, when the bright day is done!

Even thus with the past year; — its morn was gay—
Sweet flowers were on the earth's green bosom springing—
And streaming sunlight bless'd the sky of May,
Where early birds their joyous way were winging,
A dream of love to youth's fresh spirit bringing
And all was gladness o'er the laughing earth:—
To the tall oak the sunny vine was clinging—
And sending echoes, e'en to home and hearth,
The sweet blue streams, set free, pour'd out a voice of mirth!

Then came the summer's prime — its long, bright day—
With garniture of wood, and field, and stream—
The golden sun outpour'd his gladding ray,
And the blue sea danced in his boundless gleam;—
When like a soft, and faint-hearted song, would seem
The cheerful murmur of the drowsy bee,
About the full grown flowers — and like a dream
Spread out for man's blest eye the scene might be,
While a soft, breezy chant, was in the green-wood tree!

Then frown'd the autumnal cloud; the shrouded sky
Its multitude of gleams and stars withdrew;
The flowers grew pale; and summer-brooks were high,
And imaged back no more a heaven of blue;—
No moon smiled out upon the evening dew—
The squirrel's footstep rustled in the glen—
The red leaves fell, and fitful night-winds blew;
And to the bright south-west, away from men,
Far, on their gleaming plumes, roam'd the wild birds again!

But man is changing in the changing year—
Shadows o'ersweep the day-spring of the heart;
When gazing back upon Time's dim career,
He marks youth's cheerful images depart!
Then will lone Memory her tales impart
Of early buds, all ashes in the urn:—
Mournful and sweet her reveries! — but we start—
And from lost years unto the present turn—
Closing from mind's deep cell, the voiceless thoughts that burn!

How many dreams have to the dust gone down—
Witness thou fading and departing year!
Since last thy spring enwreathed her flowery crown,—
Lo! gentle forms have lain upon the bier,
Where thoughtful sorrow pour'd the pensive tear!
Genius and beauty gather'd to their rest—
Death, in all climes, is on his way of fear—
His arrow trembles in Youth's budding breast—
Oh! were his power decay'd, how might Earth's love be bless'd!

[Kettell, Specimens (1829) 3:304-05]