And here is but December
left and I,
To wonder if the hawthorn bloomed in May,
And if the wild rose with so fine a flush
Mantled the cheek of June, and if the way
The stream went singing foamed with meadow sweet,
And if the throstle sang in yonder bush,
And if the lark dizzied with song the sky.
I watched and listened—yet so sweet, so fleet,
The mad young year went by!
Strange, that feeling at the end of the year that somehow we have missed it, have failed to experience it all to the full, taken it too carelessly, not dwelt sufficiently on its rich, expressive hours. Each year we feel the same, and however intent we may have been, however we have watched and listened, sensitively eager to hold and exhaust each passing moment, when the year-end has come, we seem somehow to have been cheated after all. Who, at the beginning of each year, has not promised himself a stricter attentiveness to his experience? This year he will “load every rift with ore.”
This year, I said, when first
along the lane
With tiny nipples of the tender green
The winter-blackened hedge grew bright again,
This year I watch and listen; I have seen
So many springs steal profitless away,
This year I garner every sound and sweet.
And you, young year, make not such haste to bring
Hawthorn and rose; nor jumble, indiscreet,
Treasure on treasure of the precious spring;
But bring all softly forth upon the air,
Unhasting to be fair...
Yet, for all our watchfulness, the year seems to have escaped us. We know that the birds sang, that the flowers bloomed, that the grass was green, but it seems to us that we did not take our joy of them with sufficient keenness; our sweetheart came, but we did not look deep enough into her eyes. If only we live to see the wild rose again! But meanwhile here is the snow.
Unless we are still numbered among those happy people for whom Christmas-trees are laden and lit, this annual prematurity of Christmas cannot but make us a little meditative amid our mirth, and if, while Santa Claus is dispensing his glittering treasures, our thoughts grow a little wistful, they will not necessarily be mournful thoughts, or on that account less seasonable in character; for Christmas is essentially a retrospective feast, and we may, with fitness, with indeed a proper piety of unforgetfulness, bring even our sad memories, as it were to cheer themselves, within the glow of its festivity. Ghosts have always been invited to Christmas parties, and whether they are seen or not, they always come; nor is any form of story so popular by the Christmas fire as the ghost-story—which, when one thinks of it, is rather odd, considering the mirthful character of the time. Yet, after all, what are our memories but ghost-stories? Ah! the beautiful ghosts that come to the Christmas fire!