Study Guide

The Passing of the Year Introduction

By Robert Service

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The Passing of the Year Introduction

Robert Service wrote dozens of books, filled with hundreds and hundreds of poems. He's best known for his tales of adventure in the Yukon gold country – he's often been called "The Poet of the Yukon." You might know Service from his famous and spooky poem "The Cremation of Sam McGee." His poems are legendary, beloved by readers for their exciting stories and lively, straightforward language.

Service first published "The Passing of the Year" in his 1912 collection called Rhymes of a Rolling Stone. This poem isn't as well-known as "Sam McGee," but it's definitely still an old favorite. It has all the marks of a Service classic – it's full of wisdom and heartfelt emotion, without being pushy or pretentious.

What is The Passing of the Year About and Why Should I Care?

New Year's is kind of a weird holiday. No presents, no candy, no turkey. Grownups drink too much champagne and kids get in trouble with firecrackers. Have you ever wondered what it's for, what the big deal is? Ever felt a little let down by a New Year's party once the ball drops? Well, that's what a poem like this is for.

No, "The Passing of the Year" won't make you more popular at your next New Year's bash. Even we aren't nerdy enough to recommend a Robert Service reading at a party. Still, you know what a poem like this can do? It can help you to think about what your life means. It can explode the boundaries of your everyday world, and change your vision of how things fit together. It can take you outside yourself and help you imagine how people around the world are feeling and living. Yup, it might sound crazy, but we really mean it.

Even though this poem is definitely fun to read, it has a much weirder and more serious side. We bet that when Service whisks you off to his ghost-theater of the mind, you'll be entranced. Maybe you'll even think about New Year's in a new way.

The Passing of the Year Resources


Some Other Service Poems
Here's a selection of other poems by Service from the Poetry Foundation.  The site is worth poking around on, too.  Lots of good stuff.

Big Robert Service Site
This is more of a fan-page than an academic research site.  Still, it's full of interesting tidbits, and we think it really captures how alive Service's poetry still is for so many people.


Radio Theatre Group
Listen to fun, dramatic readings of poems, including Service's "The Passing of the Year."

Robert Service's Voice?
This claims to be a recording of Service himself reading one of his poems.  No way for us to be sure, but it sounds convincing, and just a little bit eerie.  Or maybe a lot eerie…


A Classic Shot of Service
Here's the man himself, his signature, and a little bio.

Old Man/Father Time Cartoon
While we were reading this poem, we realized we'd seen this old man/old year thing before.  You know those cartoons in the paper around New Year's that show the old year as an old man and the new one as a baby?  Well, for what it's worth, here's one.

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