Margaret Fuller, Critic: Writings from the New-York Tribune, 1844-1846

By Judith Mattson Bean; Joel Myerson | Go to book overview

1st January, 1846

The New Year dawns, and its appearance is hailed by a flutter of festivity. Men and women run from house to house, scattering gifts, smiles, and congratulations. It is a custom that seems borrowed from a better day, unless indeed it be a prophecy that such must come.

For why so much congratulation? A year has passed; we are nearer by a twelvemonth to the term of this earthly probation. It is a solemn thought, and though the consciousness of having hallowed the days by our best endeavor, and of having much occasion to look to the Ruling Power of all with grateful benediction, must, in cases where such feelings are unalloyed, bring joy, one would think it must even then be a grave joy, and one that would disincline to this loud gayety in welcoming a new year; another year,—in which we may, indeed, strive forward in a good spirit, and find our strivings blest, but must surely expect trials, temptations and disappointments from without, frailty, short coming or convulsion in ourselves.

If it be appropriate to a reflective habit of mind to ask with each night-fall the Pythagorean questions, how much more so at the close of the year!

What hast thou done that's worth the doing? And what pursued that's worth pursuing? What sought thou knewest thou shouldst shun? What done thou shouldst have left undone?

The intellectual man will also ask, What new truths have been opened to me, or what facts presented that will lead to the discovery of truths?—The poet and the lover—What new forms of beauty have been presented for my delight, and as memorable illustrations of the Divine presence,—unceasing, but oftentimes unfelt by our sluggish natures.

Are there many men who fail sometimes to ask themselves questions to this depth? who do not care to know whether they have done right or forborne to

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