Ringing in redress

A new year always reminds me of my favourite Victorian poet Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem, Ring Out, Wild Bells, in which the poet asks the wild bells to: “Ring out the old, ring in the new.” I don’t think that there is any qualitative difference between December 31 and January 1, apart from the fact that one is the last day of the last month of a calendar year and the other is the first day of the first month of the next calendar year.

Hamlet says in the second scene of the Act II of the greatest Shakespearean tragedy Hamlet, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Likewise, it is our thinking that makes years new and old. And yet, it is certain, new years will never cease to come and people will never stop celebrating it.

But every new year reminds me of the painful memory of my beloved wife and daughter, whom I lost exactly on the New Year’s day four years ago. I have nothing new to hope for on New Year’s and, as far as I am concerned, years ceased to be new four years ago when I lost everything I value in my life.

New years virtually rip my heart apart and make it bleed freshly with insufferable pain. It was my daughter’s naughtiness and my wife’s affectionate nagging that made the years new for me; they were the angels who made my life meaningful. Without them, every New Year, I don’t live in the present and future, I live in the past.

And yet, mechanically, every New Year reminds me of Tennyson’s poem. And now my mind rivets on the first line of its third stanza — “Ring out the grief that saps the mind” — the existence of which I seldom noticed four years ago. Till then, this line has never attracted me; but for the last four years, hoping against hope, I silently recite this line.

Now, P B Shelley’s Ode to a Skylark captivates me more than ever before because the poet asks the skylark: “What objects are the fountains/ Of thy happy strain?/ What fields, or waves, or mountains?/ What shapes of sky or plain?/ What love of thine own kind? what ignorance of pain?” Now I read again and again the most poignant lines Shelley utters: “Our sincerest laughter/With some pain is fraught;/ Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.”

But, as I am not the world, and my grief and pain won’t be grief and pain at all when compared to that of the less privileged people who are subjected to genocides, who are displaced for dams and mines and who live in riot-hit and war-torn areas in the world, let me sing with Tennyson:

“The year is going, let him go;/Ring out the false, ring in the true./ Ring out the feud of rich and poor,/Ring in redress to all mankind./Ring in the nobler modes of life,/With sweeter manners, purer laws./Ring out false pride in place and blood,/The civic slander and the spite;/Ring in the love of truth and right,/Ring out the thousand wars of old,/Ring in the thousand years of peace.” 

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Ringing in redress

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