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Can You Think of a Better Poem to Kickstart the New Year?

I can't. "The Year" says it all.

“We laugh, we weep, we hope, we fear. And that’s the burden of the year.”

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

I love it when I discover an author or poet who I didn’t know about. I found this poem a couple of years ago, copied it into my “Poetry” notebook, and knew it would be perfect for New Year’s Day.

“The Year”

“What can be said in New Year rhymes That’s not been said a thousand times?

The New Years come, the old ones go, We know we dream, we dream we know.

We rise up laughing with the light, We lie down weeping with the night.

We hug the world until it stings, We curse it then and sigh for wings.

We live, we love, we woo, we wed. We wreathe our brides, we sheet our dead.

We laugh, we weep, we hope, we fear. And that’s the burden of the year.”

A "Popular" Poet - As If That's A Bad Thing!

The author is Ella Wheeler Wilcox. I laughed when the Wikipedia entry on her says that she is a “popular poet” rather than a “literary” one.

“Popular” sounds good to me. Ella Wheeler Wilcox was born in 1850 and started writing poetry as a child. Her first poem was published by the time she was thirteen, and by the time she graduated from high school, she was recognized as one of Wisconsin’s best poets. Her book, Poems of Passion, sold 60,000 copies between 1883–1885, and her essays were sought after in “popular” magazines. She’s criticized now for her plain, rhymed, poetry that was in vogue at the end of the 19th century.

But I have no criticism with either with “popular” or “plain.” I think her poem, “The Year,” is both poignant and piercing looking at it from the viewpoint of a horrendous 2020 and a hopeful 2021. “Wreathing our brides, and sheeting our dead,” indeed.


Melissa Gouty’s first book, The Magic of Ordinary, a memoir about growing up with a father who loved his family, will be released on January 15, 2021, and will be available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and online book vendors everywhere. If being “popular,” means selling 60,000 copies of her book, she’ll take it, no matter what pejorative meaning “popular” has.

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