Every man has two birthdays; two days, at least,
in every year, which set him upon revolving the lapse of time, as it
affects his mortal duration.
The one is that which in an especial manner he
terms his. In the gradual desuetude of old observances, this custom
of solemnizing our proper birthday has nearly passed away, or is
left to children, who reflect nothing at all about the matter, nor
understand any thing in it beyond cake and orange.
But the birth of a New Year is of an interest
too wide to be pre- permitted by king or cobbler. No one ever
regarded the First of January with indifference. It is that from
which all date their time, and count upon what is left. It is the
nativity of our common Adam.
Of all sounds of all bell -- (bells, the music
highest bordering upon heaven) – most solemn and touching is the
peal which rings out the Old Year. I never hear it without a
gathering-up of my mind to a concentration of all the images that
have been diffused over the past twelvemonth; all I have done or
suffered, performed or neglected in that regretted time. I begin to
know its worth, as when a person dies. It takes a personal colour;
nor was it a poetical flight in a contemporary, when he exclaimed --
I saw the skirts of the departing Year.
It is no more than what in sober sadness every
one of us seems to be conscious of, in that awful leave-taking. I am
sure I felt it, and all felt it with me, last night; Though some of
my companions affected rather to manifest an exhilaration at the
birth of the coming year, than any very tender regrets for the
decease of its predecessor. But I am none of those who --
Welcome the coming, speed the parting guest.
I am naturally, beforehand, shy of novelties:
new books, new faces, new years, -- from some mental twist which
makes it difficult in me to face the prospective. I have almost
ceased to hope; and am sanguine only in the prospects of other
(former) years. I plunge into foregone visions and conclusions. I
encounter pell-mell with past disappointments. I am armour – proof
against old discouragements. I forgive, or overcome in fancy, old
I play over again for love, as the gamesters
phrase it, games, for which I once paid so dear. I would scarce now
have any of those untoward accidents and events of my life reversed.
I would no more alter them than the incidents of some well-contrived
In those days the sound of those midnight
chimes, though it seemed to raise hilarity in all around me, never
failed to bring a train of pensive imagery into my fancy. Yet I then
scarce conceived what it meant, or thought of it as a reckoning that
concerned me. Not childhood alone, but the young man till thirty,
never feels practically that he is mortal. He knows it indeed, and,
if need were, he could preach a homily on the fragility of life; but
he brings it not home to himself, any more than in a hot June we can
appropriate to our imagination the freezing days of December.
But now, shall I confess a truth ? -- I feel
these audits but too powerfully. I begin to count the probabilities
of my duration, and to grudge at the expenditure of moments and
shortest periods, like miser 's farthings. In proportion as the
years both lessen and shorten, I set more count upon their periods,
and would fain lay my ineffectual finger upon the spoke of the great
I am not content to pass away "like a weaver 's
shuttle." Those metaphors solace me not, nor sweeten the unpalatable
draught of mortality. I care not to be carried with the tide, that
smoothly bears human life to eternity: and reluct at the inevitable
course of destiny.
I am in love with this green earth; the face of
town and country; the unspeakable rural solitudes, and the sweet
security of streets. I would set up my tabernacle here. I am content
to stand still at the age to which I am arrived; I, and my friends:
to be no younger, no richer, no handsomer. I do not want to be
weaned by age; or drop, like mellow fruit, as they say, into the