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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Speculations on New Year’s Day
By Matthias Claudius (1740–1815)
 
From the Wandsbecker Bote

A HAPPY new year! A happy new year to my dear country, the land of old integrity and truth! A happy new year to friends and enemies, Christians and Turks, Hottentots and Cannibals! To all on whom God permits his sun to rise and his rain to fall! Also to the poor negro slaves who have to work all day in the hot sun. It’s wholly a glorious day, the New Year’s Day! At other times I can bear that a man should be a little bit patriotic, and not make court to other nations. True, one must not speak evil of any nation. The wiser part are everywhere silent; and who would revile a whole nation for the sake of the loud ones? As I said, I can bear at other times that a man should be a little patriotic: but on New Year’s Day my patriotism is dead as a mouse, and it seems to me on that day as if we were all brothers, and had one Father who is in heaven; as if all the goods of the world were water which God has created for all men, as I once heard it said.  1
  And so I am accustomed, every New Year’s morning, to sit down on a stone by the wayside, to scratch with my staff in the sand before me, and to think of this and of that. Not of my readers. I hold them in all honor: but on New Year’s morning, on the stone by the wayside, I think not of them; but I sit there and think that during the past year I saw the sun rise so often, and the moon,—that I saw so many rainbows and flowers, and breathed the air so often, and drank from the brook,—and then I do not like to look up, and I take with both hands my cap from my head and look into that.  2
  Then I think also of my acquaintances who have died during the year; and how they can talk now with Socrates and Numa, and other men of whom I have heard so much good, and with John Huss. And then it seems as if graves opened round me, and shadows with bald crowns and long gray beards came out of them and shook the dust out of their beards. That must be the work of the “Everlasting Huntsman,” who has his doings about the twelfth. The old pious long-beards would fain sleep. But a glad new year to your memory and to the ashes in your graves!  3
 
 
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