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The Passing of the Year

The Passing of the Year


by Robert Service

Stanza 5 Summary

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

Lines 33-34

And You, deep shrinking in the gloom,
What find you in that filmy gaze?

  • Now we move to one last person in this audience. Again, we don't learn much about who this person is (we'll assume it's a "he" to make things simpler). Apparently, he is hiding in the darkness ("shrinking in the gloom").
  • Again, our speaker wonders what this person might have seen this year, what he might see in the "filmy gaze" of the Old Year up on the stage.
  • We're not sure exactly what a filmy gaze would look like, but we imagine a sort of blank, glazed look in the eyes of the Old Year.

Lines 35-36

What menace of a tragic doom?
What dark, condemning yesterdays?

  • Why is this guy trying to hide in the dark? Maybe he's frightened by some terrible thing that might happen to him ("menace of a tragic doom"). Or maybe he's done or seen bad things in the past ("condemning yesterdays").
  • Service gets a lot of mileage out of the word "condemning" here. It makes us think of someone being condemned for a crime – definitely a scary word.

Line 37

What urge to crime, what evil done?

  • Clearly the speaker thinks this last guy has done bad things, committed some "crime" or "evil" in the past year. The speaker watches his behavior and makes a judgment based on what he sees.
  • These three stanzas are all about observing people in the audience (the sad girl, the rich person, the criminal) and imagining what their lives might be like.

Line 38

What cold, confronting shape of fear?

  • Our speaker imagines that the person in the dark sees some kind of evil thing "confronting" him.
  • This "cold shape of fear" almost sounds like a ghost to us, something that reminds him of the terrible things he's done.

Line 39-40

O haggard, haunted, hidden One
What see you in the dying year?

  • With that, we say goodbye to the criminal in the dark, whoever he might be.
  • Service uses three "h" words in a row here, in a cool alliteration that really reinforces our spooky mental image of this guy. His look is "haggard" (meaning exhausted, worn down). He seems to be "haunted" by something, and he's also "hidden."
  • Notice the way the speaker refers to the year "dying" in line 40. Even though he's just talking about the year ending, the word choice helps to deepen the ominous feeling.

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