The Passing of the Year
by Robert Service
The Old Year
So, if you focus on one major image in this poem, one important poetic trick, we think this should be it. The major action of this poem is driven by the transformation of the "Old Year." In order to dramatize the ending of the year, Service turns it into an old man. This imaginary old guy seems to be some kind of actor, taking his final bow. See the analogy there? We knew you would.
- Line 4: This is a little tricky, because here the speaker refers to the "old year," but it's not really the all-important character we're talking about. At least not yet. Notice the difference? No caps. This is a lower-case old year, not the guy who will be introduced in a few lines.
- Line 9: Now we're on track. This is the real introduction of the "Old Year." This is where we watch the idea of a year (1911, 365 days, whatever you want to call it) turn into a person with a face, an expression, arms and legs, etc. Giving an idea human qualities like that is called personification and it's super, super important for this poem.
- Line 15: Here the speaker asks the Old Year to wait a moment. He's gone from just addressing him to actually asking him to do things. In a way, it feels like our speaker is watching this imaginary play and directing it at the same time, telling the actors when to come and go.
- Line 48: Notice the way the speaker deepens and complicates the personification as he continues, weaving in adjectives like "weary." Even though we never get a perfectly clear image of the "Old Year," we think there's a lot of emotional weight behind his characterization.