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The Passing of the Year

The Passing of the Year


by Robert Service

Stanza 4 Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 25-26

And you, O neighbour on my right
So sleek, so prosperously clad!

  • Now the speaker turns to another person in the audience, someone who is sitting next to him.
  • We don't learn much about who this person is, even if it's a man or a woman, but right away we can tell that his or her mood or appearance is completely different from that of the sad girl. This person is well-groomed ("sleek") and sharply dressed in fine clothes ("prosperously clad").

Line 27-28

What see you in that aged wight
That makes your smile so gay and glad?

  • The speaker refers to an "aged wight." That might trip you up at first, but it's just a fancy way of saying old person and unfortunate. (Again with the gloomy mood.)
  • And who is this "aged wight"? It's the Old Year, of course.
  • Apparently when the speaker's "neighbor" (from line 25) looks at the Old Year up on the stage, he or she feels happy, and finds a reason to smile brightly. The speaker wonders, like he did with the Maiden, what could be making this person feel that way?

Line 29-30

What opportunity unmissed?
What golden gain, what pride of place?

  • Like before, he guesses what might have happened during this happy person's year. He speculates that maybe it was some success ("an opportunity unmissed"). Maybe that success was financial ("golden gain") or social ("pride of place" means importance, being first in line, etc.).

Line 31-32

What splendid hope? O Optimist!
What read you in that withered face?

  • Now we say goodbye to the "prosperous neighbor" with a last couple of lines. Just like he did with the Maiden (in lines 23-24), the speaker continues to wonder what might have happened this year to make this person an "optimist." Again, he gets no answer.
  • Notice how he balances the sad girl and the happy neighbor. He puts these two stanzas side by side, and follows basically the same pattern, but in completely different moods.

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