James Weldon Johnson

Ghosts Of The Old Year

James Weldon Johnson was an American author, educator, lawyer, diplomat, songwriter, and early civil rights activist. Johnson is best remembered for his leadership within the NAACP as well as for his writing, which includes novels, poems, and anthologies. He was also the first African-American prof…






The snow has ceased its fluttering flight,
The wind sunk to a whisper light,
An ominous stillness fills the night,
A pause — a hush.
At last, a sound that breaks the spell,
Loud, clanging mouthings of a bell,
That through the silence peal and swell,
And roll, and rush.

What does this brazen tongue declare,
That falling on the midnight air
Brings to my heart a sense of care
Akin to fright?
'Tis telling that the year is dead,
The New Year come, the Old Year fled,
Another leaf before me spread
On which to write.

It tells the deeds that were not done,
It tells of races never run,
Of victories that were not won,
Barriers unleaped.
It tells of many a squandered day,
Of slighted gems and treasured clay,
Of precious stores not laid away,
Of fields unreaped.

And so the years go swiftly by,
Each, coming, brings ambitions high,
And each, departing, leaves a sigh
Linked to the past.
Large resolutions, little deeds;
Thus, filled with aims unreached, life speeds
Until the blotted record reads,
'Failure!' at last.

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