In the Catbird Seat/Joe Kirkish

We celebrate the sad endings of each year, then look forward with hopes for the new – looking back pessimistically, forward, with optimism. And so it should be. And as we look forward, we also refer to the poets of old who could put our thoughts for us, preciously, with the wisdom of ages past.

Hannah Godwin, back in the 1800s, paraphrased a miner’s dream of home when she wrote in high hopes:

The log was burning brightly,

‘Twas a night that should banish all sin,

For the bells were ringing the Old Year out,

And the New Year in.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, shortly after, wrote a poem about the death of the Old Year – still pertinent today:

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky.

The flying cloud, the frosty light:

The year is dying in the night;

Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,

Ring, happy bells, across the snow;

The year is going, let him go;

Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Full knee-deep lies the winter snow,

And the winter winds are wearily sighing;

Too, ye the church-bell sad & slow,

And tread softly and speak low,

For the old year lies a-dying.

More recently, along came a poet for the common persons, Edgar Guest, phrasing what we all thought and felt in the early 1900s:

A happy New Year! Grant that I

May bring no tear to any eye

When this New Year in time shall end,

Let it be said I’ve played the friend,

Have lived and loved and labored here,

And made of it a happy year.

The poetic thoughts aside, how about the less serious sentiments, but no less profound, from others, beginning with Mark Twain, who gave these bits of wisdom regarding the new year a-coming:

Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.

Always keep your words soft and sweet, just in case you have to eat them.

Be like a postage stamp – stick to one thing until you get there.

Be true to your teeth, or they’ll be false to you.

Be wary of strong drink. It can make you shoot at tax collectors, and miss.

Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes; that way you’re a mile away, and you have their shoes, too.

Cooking lesson #1: don’t fry bacon in the nude.

Drive carefully; it’s not only cars that can be recalled by their maker.

Eat a live toad in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you for the rest of the day.

Eat your spinach and you’ll grow up big and strong like Popeye; you’ll also end up with a girlfriend that looks like Olive Oyl.

Growl all day and you’ll be dog tired by night.

If at first you DO succeed, try not to look astonished!

If you and your friend are being chased by a grizzly bear, don’t worry about out-running the bear, just worry about out-running your friend.

If you lend someone $20 and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.

If you think nobody cares if you’re alive, try missing a couple of car payments.

If you think your wife’s jewelry is an investment, try selling a few pieces.

It is better to keep your mouth shut and look like a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

It’s nice to be important, but more important to be nice.

It’s always darkest before dawn, so if you’re going to steal the neighbor’s newspaper, that’s the time to do it.

Take the time to be right; it’s faster than being wrong.

The easiest way to find something lost around the house is to buy a replacement.

Work like you don’t need the money. Love like you’ve never been hurt. Dance like nobody is looking.

HAPPY NEW YEAR, one and all, from the Catbird Seat!

Note: For opera lovers, tune to WNMU-FM 90.1, the Marquette NPR radio station, Saturdays at 1 p.m. for the Metropolitan Opera on the Air. If hard to receive, set the radio near a window facing west or get a simple di-pole antenna at any radio shop.

Rotten Tomatoes: still no info from the local theater – sorry.