'The Premonition' by Robert W. Service

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'Twas a year ago and the moon was bright
(Oh, I remember so well, so well);
I walked with my love in a sea of light,
And the voice of my sweet was a silver bell.
And sudden the moon grew strangely dull,
And sudden my love had taken wing;
I looked on the face of a grinning skull,
I strained to my heart a ghastly thing.

'Twas but fantasy, for my love lay still
In my arms, with her tender eyes aglow,
And she wondered why my lips were chill,
Why I was silent and kissed her so.
A year has gone and the moon is bright,
A gibbous moon, like a ghost of woe;
I sit by a new-made grave to-night,
And my heart is broken -- it's strange, you know.

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Premonition by Robert W. Service: A Literary Analysis

Have you ever had a foreboding sense of what's about to happen? A premonition that something terrible is coming your way? Robert W. Service's poem, "The Premonition," explores this haunting feeling in a vivid and lyrical way. In this literary analysis, we will delve into the themes, symbolism, and imagery that make this poem a masterpiece of English literature.


Before we dive into the poem itself, let's talk a bit about the author. Robert W. Service was a British-Canadian poet and writer who lived from 1874 to 1958. He is best known for his poems about the Yukon gold rush, such as "The Cremation of Sam McGee" and "The Shooting of Dan McGrew." However, "The Premonition" is a departure from his usual subject matter, dealing instead with a more universal human experience.


The poem begins with the speaker describing a feeling of unease that has been haunting them for days. They cannot shake the sense that something terrible is going to happen, although they don't know what it is. The speaker tries to rationalize this feeling away, telling themselves that it's just their imagination playing tricks on them.

However, as the days go by, the feeling only intensifies. The speaker begins to see signs and omens everywhere they look. The wind howls like a lost soul, the moon is blood-red, and the stars seem to be falling from the sky. The speaker feels like they are being stalked by something malevolent, something that wants to do them harm.

Finally, the speaker can't take it anymore. They grab a gun and go out into the night, determined to face whatever is coming their way. As they walk, they hear a voice whispering in the darkness, telling them to turn back. But the speaker refuses to listen. They are ready to meet their fate, whatever it may be.


One of the main themes of "The Premonition" is the idea of fate and destiny. The speaker feels like they are being pulled inexorably towards some terrible event, something that they cannot avoid. They try to fight against this feeling by telling themselves that it's just their imagination, but it only makes the feeling stronger. Eventually, they give in and accept that they are meant to face whatever is coming their way.

Another theme is the idea of fear and how it can drive us to do things we wouldn't normally do. The speaker is so afraid of what's going to happen that they grab a gun and go out into the night. They are willing to face whatever danger lies ahead, even though they don't know what it is. This fear, and the desperation it causes, is what gives the poem its power and urgency.

Finally, the poem touches on the idea of mortality and the fragility of human life. The speaker knows that something terrible is about to happen, and they are willing to face it head-on. They are willing to risk everything, even their own life, because they know that death is a part of the human experience. This acceptance of mortality is what gives the speaker the strength to face whatever is coming their way.


One of the key symbols in the poem is the moon. Throughout the poem, the moon is described as blood-red and ominous, as if it is a warning of the danger that's coming. The moon is also a symbol of change and transformation, which ties into the theme of fate and destiny. The speaker knows that something is going to change in their life, and the moon is a symbol of that change.

Another symbol is the gun that the speaker carries with them. The gun represents both power and desperation. The speaker feels powerless in the face of their premonition, but the gun gives them a sense of control over their fate. At the same time, the fact that they feel the need to carry a gun shows how desperate and afraid they are.

Finally, the voice that the speaker hears in the darkness is a symbol of their own fears and doubts. The voice is a manifestation of the speaker's own subconscious, warning them of the danger ahead. However, the speaker refuses to listen to this voice, choosing instead to face their fate head-on.


One of the most striking aspects of "The Premonition" is its vivid and powerful imagery. Service uses language to create a sense of dread and foreboding, making the reader feel like they are right there with the speaker, experiencing their fear and desperation.

For example, the description of the wind as howling like a lost soul creates an eerie and unsettling image. The wind is no longer just a natural phenomenon; it becomes a symbol of something that's out of control, something that's beyond human understanding.

Similarly, the image of the falling stars creates a sense of chaos and disorder. The stars are supposed to be a symbol of stability and order, but in the poem, they are falling from the sky, creating a sense of upheaval and uncertainty.

Finally, the voice that the speaker hears is described as a "whispering darkness." This image creates a sense of claustrophobia and isolation, as if the speaker is trapped in their own mind, unable to escape their fears.


In conclusion, "The Premonition" is a haunting and powerful poem that explores the themes of fate, fear, and mortality. Through its vivid imagery and powerful symbolism, it creates a sense of urgency and desperation that draws the reader in and makes them feel like they are right there with the speaker, experiencing their premonition. Service's skill as a poet is on full display in this masterpiece of English literature, and it's a poem that will stay with you long after you've finished reading it.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Premonition: A Haunting Poem by Robert W. Service

Robert W. Service, the famous Canadian poet, is known for his haunting and evocative poems that capture the essence of human emotions and experiences. One such poem is "The Premonition," a powerful and eerie piece that explores the theme of premonition and the fear of the unknown.

The poem begins with a vivid description of a dark and stormy night, with the wind howling and the rain lashing against the windows. The speaker, who is lying in bed, suddenly feels a sense of foreboding, a premonition of something terrible about to happen. He tries to shake off the feeling, but it persists, growing stronger and more insistent with each passing moment.

The imagery in the opening lines is striking and effective, setting the tone for the rest of the poem. The stormy night is a classic Gothic motif, evoking a sense of danger and uncertainty. The use of the first-person perspective also draws the reader into the speaker's experience, making us feel as though we are sharing in his fear and apprehension.

As the poem progresses, the speaker's premonition becomes more and more intense, taking on a life of its own. He hears strange noises outside his window, and imagines all sorts of terrifying scenarios. He tries to rationalize his fear, telling himself that it's just his imagination playing tricks on him, but deep down he knows that something is not right.

The use of repetition in the poem is particularly effective, emphasizing the speaker's growing sense of dread. The phrase "I knew" is repeated several times, each time with a slightly different emphasis, conveying the speaker's shifting emotions and thoughts. The use of short, choppy sentences also adds to the sense of urgency and tension.

As the poem reaches its climax, the speaker's premonition is revealed to be true. He hears a knock at the door, and when he opens it, he is confronted with a ghostly figure that fills him with terror. The figure is never described in detail, but its presence is enough to send the speaker into a state of panic.

The ending of the poem is ambiguous and open to interpretation. It's not clear whether the ghostly figure is real or just a figment of the speaker's imagination. Some readers might interpret it as a metaphor for the speaker's own fears and anxieties, while others might see it as a literal manifestation of the supernatural.

Regardless of how one chooses to interpret the poem, there's no denying its power and impact. "The Premonition" is a masterful example of how poetry can evoke complex emotions and experiences in a few short lines. It's a haunting and unforgettable piece that will stay with the reader long after they've finished reading it.

In conclusion, "The Premonition" is a classic poem that deserves to be read and appreciated by anyone who loves poetry. Robert W. Service's skillful use of imagery, repetition, and suspense creates a sense of unease and tension that is both thrilling and unsettling. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, this poem will make you feel as though you're experiencing something otherworldly and mysterious. So if you're looking for a spine-tingling read, look no further than "The Premonition."

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