“A New Year’s Address” (from Robert Merry’s Museum, January 1846; pp. 1-3)
Come, Girls and Boys—Black Eyes and Blue—
And hear a story made for you.
Lay down your books. John, Tom, and Rob,
Be seated, if you please—No laughing, Bob!
Just stir the fire, Ben. Steady—steady!
Hand me my specs, Jane. So—all’s ready!
There go the tongs again, slam bang,
And pussy’s tail has got a whang!
Poor puss—be wise—of boys beware,
And keep your tail with better care.
Sit still now, all, and hear the story
Old Merry’s rhyme would set before ye.
The bright New Year has come; and tho
The night is dark, and chill winds blow;
Though icy fetters bind the river;
Though in the blast the stern oaks shiver;
Though the lone wolf with cold is howling,
And the starved fox abroad is prowling;
Still by the fireside warm we sit,
And crack our nuts, or crack our wit;
Tell of the past, the future scan,
And laugh or sing, as suits our plan.
Well—let us not the hour abuse—
We listen to the New Year’s Muse!
His days are fled—Old Forty-Five—
And nought is left save memory’s hive—
A mingled store of bread and honey,
Of sweet and bitter, sad and funny!
’Twere long to tell its tale anew,
Its sins and sorrows to review;
To say how Clay and Polk ran races;
Who did, and who did not, get places;
Like Stockton’s gun, how Captain Tyler
Killed off his friends, and burst his boiler;
How Texas, now in full communion,
With all her slaves, has joined the Union,
Just to extend the area bright
Where liberty is man’s birthright.
’Twere long to tell of Russia’s Nick,
Of France’s Phil, and England’s Vic;
Of Ireland’s Dan, who pockets rent,
And talks repeal—whate’er is meant;
Of Father Mathew, ’midst the bogs,
Beating—as Patrick did the frogs—
King Whisky, and his rabble Rout.
Grog, Toddy, Julep, out and out,
Of these and other things ’twere long—
Of births, deaths, fires—to sing the song;
To show the last year’s full amount,
And foot the record’s dread account.
These things we pass, and ask you, Jane,
What you have done this year. Speak plain!
Nay, do not snicker, boys—your turn
Will come in time—nor spurn
The simple question; for ’tis wise
That each should backward cast his eyes,
Noting his track, its means and ends,
And where his beaten pathway tends.
No answer, Jane? Well, we must try
These boys—Come, Robert! No reply?
Why, all can smile while other backs
Feel the keen lash that satire cracks;
But when to your own case we come,
Why, every little mouth is mum!
Well, well, fair friends, we will not ply it:
We leave the question—but you’ll try it.
In some still hour, look well within,
And if you find some cherished sin,
Drive out the monster, and let virtue in!
The past year scanned, we turn to view
The promise given by the new.
Winter, spring, summer, autumn, rise,
In lengthened vison to our eyes,
And, hiding every thorn, disclose,
Each one, some favorite wreath or rose.
Winter, stern winter, hides the tear
That tells of tingling nose and ear:
O’er starving groups it throws a veil,
Drowns the lost traveller’s dying wail,
And only brings to mind the sleigh,
Its merry bells and trappings gay;
The sportive skater lightly gliding;
The hoiden schoolboy fondly sliding;
The coaster down the hill-side plying;
The snow-balls thick as hailstones flying;
And when the joyous day is o’er,
The crafty showman shuts the door,
And brings to view the fireside scene,
Where Old Bob Merry’s Magazine
Tells tales of many lands, and wiles
From grave to gay their choicest smiles!
Spring, fickle Spring, is keen as Blitz,
Says nought of March, its stormy fits,—
How oft the morning comes like May,
Giving fair promise of the day,
While yet, ere night, the wild winds roar,
And down the myriad snow-flakes pour.
Nothing she says of mud like paste,
Nothing of freshet laying waste;
But much she talks of April showers,
That bring, or ought to bring, May flowers,
Which boys and girls, on May-day morn,
Oft seek in vain ’mid bush and thorn!
Summer, as wily as the rest,
Hides half its tale, but tells the best.
It speaks of meadows blooming fair,
Of new-mown hay that scents the air,
Of singing birds and murmuring bees,
But nothing says of bugs and fleas,
Of serpents gliding where you tread,
Of sly mosquitoes round your bed,
Of parching heat that melts by day,
And keeps at night sweet sleep away!
Autumn advances, decked in smiles,
Bringing us fruit in ample piles—
Grapes, apples, peaches, pears, all mellow
And luscious. What a charming fellow
And now the forest, like a queen,
He robes in yellow, red, and green;
But soon he changes, and his breath
Strews the torn leaves in beds of death;
The forests tremble in the fray,
And the earth yields to Winter’s sway.
Such are the seasons as they pass;
Yet, mirrored in youth’s magic glass,
The good alone is brought to light,
And evil hidden from the sight.
As distant mountains, robed in blue,
Rise soft and rounded to the view,
Their blasted peaks with azure crowned,
All turned to seeming fairy ground,—
So life—a land of promise—lies
Outspread to youth’s believing eyes.
O happy morn of life! sweet spring
Of coming years! Say, who shall fling
A cloud across so fair a sky?
Nay—not on New Year’s day shall I
Chafe your blithe hearts—your humor chide—
So put the chairs and stools aside.
We’ll have a game of blind-man’s-buff—
Then nuts and apples, till you say, “Enough!”
Well, fun and feast are o’er; but ere
We part, Old Merry’s counsel hear!
I spoke of youth, when all seems bright,
And seasons fly on wings of light;
When Hope and Love, with magic art,
Turn all to beauty in the heart.
So be your lives—a path of flowers;
So be your souls—bright as the hours:
The evil shun, the good pursue;
Be happy—but be pure and true.
Have you not seen the bee that plies
His wing? From flower to flower he flies
Yet not the rose alone he tries;
The nightshade and the foxglove gay
He visits, for they throng his way:
Yet such his art, he shuns the ill,
And only gathers honey still.
Do you the same; from mingled shade and light
Draw good alone.—And now, sweet friends, good night!