The Old Year groaned as he trudged away,
His guilty shadow black on the snow,
And the heart of the glad New Year turned grey
At the road Time bade him go.
'O Gaffer Time, is it blood-road still?
Is the noontide dark as the stormy morn?
Is man's will yet as a wild beast's will?
When shall the Christ be born?'
He laughed as he answered, grim Gaffer Time,
Whose laugh is sadder than all men's moan.
'That name rides high on our wrath and crime,
For the Light in darkness shone.
'And thou, fair youngling, wilt mend the tale?'
The New Year stared on the misty word,
Where at foot of a cross all lustrous pale
Men raged for their gods of gold.
'Come back, Old Year, with thy burden bent.
Come back and settle thine own dark debt.'
'Nay, let me haste where the years repent,
For I've seen what I would forget.'
'And I, the first of a stately train,
The tramp of a century heard behind,
Must I be fouled with thy murder-stain?
Is there no pure path to find?'
The Old Year sneered as he limped away
To the place of his penance dim and far.
The New Year stood in the gates of day,
Crowned with the morning star.