Verse > Anthologies > Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. > A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895
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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908).  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895.  1895.
 
New Year’s Eve—Midnight
 
Frederika Richardson Macdonald
 
 
DEAD. The dead year is lying at my feet;
In this strange hour the past and future meet;
There is no present; no land in the vast sea;
Appalled, I stand here in Eternity.
 
Darkness upon me. On my soul it weighs;        5
The gloom, that has crushed out the life of days
That once knew light, has crept into my heart;
I have not strength to bid it thence depart.
 
Oh, what is Time? and what is Life, the fire
That thrills my pulses with its large desire?        10
Since at each step I rend a fragment of my soul,
And growth means dying, whither is the goal?
 
The old, old question! yet I do not shrink
From bitter truths; I do not fear to drink
Even to the dregs the cup that tears may fill;        15
I ’d know God’s truth, though it were human ill.
 
I have cast down the idols in my mind
Which sought to comfort me for being blind;
I need no pleasant lie to cheat the night,
I need God’s Truth, that I may walk aright.        20
 
That, and that only! with unflinching eyes
I would tear through the secret of the skies;
Smile on, ye stars; in me there is a might
Which dares to scale your large empyreal height.
 
Yet—yet—how shall it be? Time sweeps me on,        25
And what one day I hold, the next is gone;
The very Heavens are changed! the face they wore,
A moment back, is lost to come no more.
 
My soul along the restless current drifts,
And to its sight the source of radiance shifts;        30
Wildly I strive some gleam of truth to save,
And cry, “God help me!” battling with the wave.
 
God help me? Well I know the prayer is vain,
Although it rush up to my lips again;
I know His help was given with the Breath        35
That leads me thus to struggle against death.
 
No further help. No help beyond the soul,
The fragment of Himself I hold in my control;
From heaven, no stronger aid to lead me through the fight:
In heaven, no higher aim to bind me to the Right.        40
 
Thus stand I on the brink of this new year,
Darkness upon me—not the work of fear.
Powerless I know to check the river’s sweep,
Powerful alone my own soul’s truth to keep.
 

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