Steve Whitaker, Literary Editor
Poem Of The Week: 'Good Riddance, But Now What?' By Ogden Nash (1902-1971)
Good Riddance, But Now What?
Come, children, gather round my knee;
Something is about to be.
Tonight’s December thirty-first,
Something is about to burst.
The clock is crouching, dark and small,
Like a time bomb in the hall.
Hark! It’s midnight, children dear.
Duck! Here comes another year.
Perhaps a bit of light humour is the best antidote to what the monarch once referred to as an ‘annus horribilis’. And in American light verse exponent Ogden Nash’s slight octave we find a gimlet-eyed view of a succeeding year shaped by earnest experience of the one about to expire. We all recognise the tone, as we all recognise the failure of reality to approximate to the promise pealed in the hollow bells of New Year’s Eve. That some good will mostly come of it is a sentiment embodied in the poet’s good temper, for ‘Good Riddance’ is a poem with heart, in spite of the gallows codicil.
But in the image of the clock ‘crouching, dark and small, / Like a time bomb in the hall’ is an oblique reminder of another whose hands count inexorably down to the flatline of midnight. The double-edged ‘burst’ of excitement, of renewal and becoming, carries, always the possibility of its opposite: the Doomsday Clock is set currently at one minute and forty seconds to extinction.
It doesn’t do to dwell, as Nash might have added. A happy new year to all our readers !