Dirge of the Departed Year

John Leyden

Malaya's woods and mountains ring
"With voices strange but sad to hear;
And dark unbodied spirits sing
The dirge of the departed year.

Lo! now, methinks, in tones sublime,
As viewless o'er our heads they bend,
They whisper, "thus we steal your time,
Weak mortals! till your days shall end."

Then wake the dance, and wake the song.
Resound the festive mirth and glee!
Alas ! the days have pass'd along,
The days we never more shall see.

But let me brush the nightly dews,
Beside the shell-depainted shore,
And mid the sea-weeds sit to muse
On days that shall return no more.

Olivia, ah! forgive the bard,
If sprightly strains alone are dear:
His notes are sad, for he has heard
The footsteps of the parting year.

'Mid friends of youth, belov'd in vain,
Oft have I hail'd this jocund day.
If pleasure brought a thought of pain,
I charm'd it with a passing lay.

Friends of my youth, for ever dear,
Where are you from this bosom fled?
A lonely man I linger here,
Like one that has been long time dead.

Fore-doom 'd to seek an early tomb,
For whom the pallid grave-flowers blow,
I hasten on my destin'd doom,
And sternly mock at joy or woe.

Yet, while the circling year returns,
Till years to me return no more,
Still in my breast affection burns
With purer ardour than before.

Departed year! thine earliest beam,
When first it grac'd thy splendid round,
Beheld me by the Caveri's stream,
A man unblest on holy ground.

With many a lingering step and slow,
I left Mysura's hills afar,
Through Curga's rocks I past below,
To trace the lakes of Malabar.

Sweet Malabar! thy suns, that shine
With soften'd light through summer showers,
Might charm a sadder soul than mine
To joy amid thy lotus-flowers.

For each sweet scene I wander'd o'er,
Fair scenes that shall be ever dear,
From Curga's hills to Travencore —
I hail thy steps, departed year!

But chief that in this eastern isle,
Girt by the green and glistering wave,
Olivia's kind endearing: smile
Seera'd to recall me from the grave.

When, far beyond Malaya's sea,
I trace dark Soonda's forests drear,
Olivia! I shall think of thee;—
And bless thy steps, departed year!

Each morn or evening spent with thee
Fancy shall mid the wilds restore
In all their charms, and they shall be
Sweet days that shall return no more.

Still may'st thou live in bliss secure,
Beneath thatjriend's protecting care,
And may his cherish'd life endure
Long, long, thy holy love to share.

Jan. 1806

The "Eastern Isle" is Island of Penang, now part of Malaysia. Previously, Leyden spent time in India, including at Mysore and in Kerala (Malabar).

Main Location:

Penang Island, Malaysia

Other locations:

The Island of Penang, Malaysia