‘The Old Year’: A Poem by John Clare

This poem, ‘The Old Year’, by the underrated John Clare (1793-1864) is about bidding farewell to the old year rather than ushering in the new. Indeed, the stanza form is strikingly similar to Thomas Hardy’s later poem ‘The Darkling Thrush’: did Hardy have Clare’s poem in mind when he wrote his 1900 New Year meditation? For a good edition of John Clare’s poetry, we recommend John Clare: Major Works from Oxford University Press.

The Old Year

The Old Year’s gone away
To nothingness and night:
We cannot find him all the day
Nor hear him in the night:
He left no footstep, mark or place
In either shade or sun:
The last year he’d a neighbour’s face,
In this he’s known by none.

All nothing everywhere:
Mists we on mornings see
Have more of substance when they’re here
And more of form than he.
He was a friend by every fire,
In every cot and hall–
A guest to every heart’s desire,
And now he’s nought at all.

Old papers thrown away,
Old garments cast aside,
The talk of yesterday,
Are things identified;
But time once torn away
No voices can recall:
The eve of New Year’s Day
Left the Old Year lost to all.

If you enjoyed ‘The Old Year’, you might also like John Clare’s poem ‘I Am’.


  1. I recall my grandmother and great-aunt always referring to December 31st as “Old Year’s Night” rather than “New Year’s Eve”.

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