At the end of "September 1, 1939", which was actually inspired by Hitler's invasion of Poland, Auden goes about trying to put a good face on his rather depressing wasteland vision of human frailty. But he eventually denounced his own efforts as dishonest, and one is inclined to surmise he had his eye on that last verse, below.
Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.
For a while there you get the sense he thought he wasn't one of us. But he really was. All along. Especially on New Years Eve.
And exactly where do the "Just" exchange their messages anyway? For years, people have converged en mass on the last day of the year: in Times Square; at Sydney Harbour, near the Opera House and Harbour Bridge; at CentralWorld Plaza in Bangkok; along London's Thames River, on the beach in Rio and in other better- and lesser-known locales in population centers the world over to ring out the old, ring in the new.
Often with fireworks. (They scare away the evil spirits, plus they're pretty and fun to watch.)
But most of the messaging exchanged at such gatherings is of the fractured, inchoate primal shouting sort. The attendees at such assemblages seem generally rather happy, even gleeful, and maybe even drunk. But that's no measure of the mental state they were in before they got there or how low they're going to feel by the time they finally get back home to their beds.
After all, what could move someone to go looking for such a large crowd on a cold night. Seeking warmth? More likely anonymity. Looking to blend in. Absolution by way of invisibility.
Maybe we're setting ourselves up. Maybe we should focus less on eliminating our flaws as the coming year comes rolling up on us and more on improving our characters. Maybe, paradoxically, New Year's Eve looks more backwards in fear than forward in courage. Maybe this year we should worry less about 20/20 hindsight and concentrate more on 20/20 foresight.
Happy New Year! Let's hope it's a good one.