Mind you, I am not insensible to the Inexorable March of Time or to "the strumble/Of the hungry river of death." For example, on Sunday evening Marcus Aurelius brought me this:
"Remember also that each man lives only the present moment: The rest of time is either spent and gone, or is quite unknown. It is a very little time which each man lives, and in a small corner of the earth; and the longest surviving fame is but short, and this conveyed through a succession of poor mortals, each presently a-dying; men who neither knew themselves, nor the persons long since dead."
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book III, Section 10, in Francis Hutcheson and James Moor (translators), The Meditations of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (1742).
After reading the passage, I sought out Jeremy Collier's translation. Although Collier has been criticized for his lack of fidelity to the emperor's Greek text, his late 17th century-early 18th century English prose is often lovely and colorful. And such is the case in this instance:
"Remembering withal, that every Man's Life lies all within the Present; For the Past is spent, and done with, and the Future is uncertain: Now the Present if strictly examin'd, is but a point of Time. Well then! Life moves in a very narrow Compass; yes, and Men live in a poor Corner of the World too: And the most lasting Fame will stretch but to a sorry Extent. The Passage on't is uneven and craggy, and therefore it can't run far. The frequent Breaks of Succession drop it in the Conveyance: For alas! poor transitory Mortals, know little either of themselves, or of those who were long before them."
Marcus Aurelius, Ibid, in Jeremy Collier (1650-1726) (translator), The Emperor Marcus Antoninus: His Conversation with Himself (1701).
James Paterson (1854-1932),"Moniaive" (1885)
Marcus Aurelius' thoughts in turn bring this to mind:
The Old Year
The Old Year's gone away
To nothingness and night:
We cannot find him all the day
Nor hear him in the night:
He left no footstep, mark or place
In either shade or sun:
The last year he'd a neighbour's face,
In this he's known by none.
All nothing everywhere:
Mists we on mornings see
Have more of substance when they're here
And more of form than he.
He was a friend by every fire,
In every cot and hall --
A guest to every heart's desire,
And now he's nought at all.
Old papers thrown away,
Old garments cast aside,
The talk of yesterday,
Are things identified;
But time once torn away
No voices can recall:
The eve of New Year's Day
Left the Old Year lost to all.
John Clare, in Edmund Blunden and Alan Porter (editors), John Clare: Poems Chiefly from Manuscript (Cobden-Sanderson 1920).
I recognize that the combination of the emperor's thoughts and Clare's poem may not be everyone's cup of tea on the cusp of the New Year. You'll certainly not find me criticizing those who wish to sing "Auld Lang Syne" in good cheer with their fellows at the stroke of midnight. We are in "the vale of Soul-making," after all, and there is more than one path through it.
James Paterson, "Autumn in Glencairn, Moniaive" (1887)
Here is a final New Year thought from yet another time and place:
Swift is their passage
as the flow of the Asuka,
"Tomorrow River" --
the long months I spend saying,
"yesterday," "today," "tomorrow."
Harumichi Tsuraki (d. 920) (translated by Helen Craig McCullough), in Helen Craig McCullough (editor and translator), Kokin Wakashū: The First Imperial Anthology of Japanese Poetry (Stanford University Press 1985), page 82.
The poem (which is a waka) appears in Kokin Wakashū, an anthology that was compiled in approximately 905. (Ibid, page v.) The headnote to the poem states that it was "composed at year-end." (Ibid, page 82.) "Tomorrow River" is an alternative translation of Asukagawa ("Asuka River"), and is based "on the pun inherent in its name -- the sound asu meaning 'tomorrow'." (Steven Carter (editor), Traditional Japanese Poetry: An Anthology (Stanford University Press 1991), page 480.)
There are many paths. And all of those yesterdays, todays, and tomorrows. Happy New Year, dear readers!
James Paterson, "The Last Turning, Winter, Moniaive" (1885)