African American Poetry (1870-1928): A Digital Anthology

Olivia Ward Bush Banks, "My Dream of the New Year" (1899)


Through the waning hours of moments
  Of the slowly dying year,
I sat watching, watching, waiting
  For the New Dawn to appear.
While the Old Year's strife and struggle,
  With its changing, varied scene,
Passed before me till I wearied,
  Fell asleep–asleep to dream
That I saw a lofty Castle,
  Vast in size and wondrous fair;
And I stood outside its portal
  Knocking for an entrance there.
From its towers the bells were ringing
  In a strange, discordant tone,
Wailing out their mournful measures
  Like a mortal's dying moan.

Still I waited, knocked and waited,
  For I longed to enter there;
Longed to know the name and secret
  Of this Castle, vast and fair.
When a voice within cried loudly,
  "Thou shalt have that wish of thine.
Thou art knocking at Life's Castle,
  And the keeper's name is Time.

"And the bells you hear above you
  Ring out all the dying years;
Ring out Man's past griefs and sorrows,
  Ring out blasted hopes and fears.
With the coming of the New Year
  They will cease that refrain.
You will hear them chiming sweetly,
  Ringing out a joyous strain.

"If you watch and wait with patience,
  You shall be admitted here;
For the New Year swift approaches,
  Its bright dawning draweth near."
So I waited, watched and waited
  Till the Castle's door swung wide;
And the keeper bade me enter,
  Saying, "Mortal here abide."

'Twas indeed a wondrous Castle,
  With its arches gleaming bright,
E'en the keeper's face was beaming
  With a rare and radiant light.
Through its spacious halls he led me
  Over floors of spotless white,
Till it seemed that mortal vision
  Ne'er beheld a fairer sight.

On its walls in blazoned letters
  I could trace each written word,
Words that could not fail to strengthen
  When by mortals they were heard.
And the keeper, softly speaking,
  Read them, one by one, to me,–
"Resolution, faith, and duty,
  Hope and opportunity."

Then I asked him, "Can you tell me
  Why these words are written here?"
He replied: "These are the watchwords
  That shall guide thee through the year.
Just resolve to do thy duty;
  Thine the opportunity.
Hope shall aid thee in thy purpose,
  Do it well and faithfully."

Then the bells pealed out so loudly,
  Ringing out their joyous strain,
That I started from my slumber,
  Found myself alone again.
Saw no more Life's wondrous Castle,
  Vanished now the keeper Time;
Heard no more the joyful pealing
  Of the bells' sweet, tuneful chime.

Day had dawned, the night was over,
  Life's Old year was safely past.
Now had dawned a brighter morning,
  Life's New Year had come at last.
But the Dream had filled its mission– 
  Made my path of duty clear.
Hope and Faith were now the watchwords 
  Brightening up my glad New Year.

Published in "Original Poems," 1899