This is my favorite New Year’s poem, written in 1900 by Edwin Arlington Robinson. He grew up in Gardiner, Maine and the inland winters probably contributed a great deal to his outlook on life. He also wrote “Richard Cory” and “The Mill”.
Here is Eben Flood, and his party.
Old Eben Flood, climbing alone one nightOver the hill between the town belowAnd the forsaken upland hermitageThat held as much as he should ever knowOn earth again of home, paused warily.The road was his with not a native near;And Eben, having leisure, said aloud,For no man else in Tilbury Town to hear:“Well, Mr. Flood, we have the harvest moonAgain, and we may not have many more;The bird is on the wing, the poet says,And you and I have said it here before.Drink to the bird.” He raised up to the lightThe jug that he had gone so far to fill,And answered huskily: “Well, Mr. Flood,Since you propose it, I believe I will.”Alone, as if enduring to the endA valiant armor of scarred hopes outworn,He stood there in the middle of the roadLike Roland’s ghost winding a silent horn.Below him, in the town among the trees,Where friends of other days had honored him,A phantom salutation of the deadRang thinly till old Eben’s eyes were dim.Then, as a mother lays her sleeping childDown tenderly, fearing it may awake,He set the jug down slowly at his feetWith trembling care, knowing that most things break;And only when assured that on firm earthIt stood, as the uncertain lives of menAssuredly did not, he paced away,And with his hand extended paused again:“Well, Mr. Flood, we have not met like thisIn a long time; and many a change has comeTo both of us, I fear, since last it wasWe had a drop together. Welcome home!”Convivially returning with himself,Again he raised the jug up to the light;And with an acquiescent quaver said:“Well, Mr. Flood, if you insist, I might.“Only a very little, Mr. Flood—For auld lang syne. No more, sir; that will do.”So, for the time, apparently it did,And Eben evidently thought so too;For soon amid the silver lonelinessOf night he lifted up his voice and sang,Secure, with only two moons listening,Until the whole harmonious landscape rang—“For auld lang syne.” The weary throat gave out,The last word wavered; and the song being done,He raised again the jug regretfullyAnd shook his head, and was again alone.There was not much that was ahead of him,And there was nothing in the town below—Where strangers would have shut the many doorsThat many friends had opened long ago.