'The Reckoning' by Robert W. Service

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It's fine to have a blow-out in a fancy restaurant,
With terrapin and canvas-back and all the wine you want;
To enjoy the flowers and music, watch the pretty women pass,
Smoke a choice cigar, and sip the wealthy water in your glass.
It's bully in a high-toned joint to eat and drink your fill,
But it's quite another matter when you
Pay the bill.

It's great to go out every night on fun or pleasure bent;
To wear your glad rags always and to never save a cent;
To drift along regardless, have a good time every trip;
To hit the high spots sometimes, and to let your chances slip;
To know you're acting foolish, yet to go on fooling still,
Till Nature calls a show-down, and you
Pay the bill.

Time has got a little bill -- get wise while yet you may,
For the debit side's increasing in a most alarming way;
The things you had no right to do, the things you should have done,
They're all put down; it's up to you to pay for every one.
So eat, drink and be merry, have a good time if you will,
But God help you when the time comes, and you
Foot the bill.

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Reckoning: A Literary Masterpiece by Robert W. Service

Are you a lover of poetry? Do you enjoy reading works that transport you into a world of imagination and beauty? If you answered yes to either of these questions, then you are in for a treat with Robert W. Service’s classic poem, The Reckoning. This literary masterpiece is a celebration of life, death, and the eternal struggle for human existence. In this 4000-word literary criticism and interpretation, we will explore the themes, symbols, and stylistic elements that make The Reckoning a timeless work of art.

The Poet and His Work

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of The Reckoning, let us first take a moment to appreciate the poet behind the work. Robert W. Service was a Canadian poet and writer born in 1874. He is widely known for his works that celebrate the American frontier and the Yukon gold rush. Some of his most notable works include The Shooting of Dan McGrew, The Cremation of Sam McGee, and The Spell of the Yukon.

Service's works are characterized by their vivid imagery, rhythmic verse, and use of colloquial language. He was a master at telling stories through poetry and was able to capture the essence of human emotion in a way that resonated with readers across the globe. The Reckoning is no exception to this. It is a prime example of Service's ability to use poetry to explore the complexities of human existence.

Themes and Symbols

At its core, The Reckoning is a poem about the inevitability of death and the struggle for survival. The poem is set against the backdrop of a harsh winter in the Yukon. The protagonist, a man named Dan McGrew, is faced with the harsh reality of his own mortality. He knows that death is coming for him, but he refuses to go down without a fight.

One of the most prominent themes in The Reckoning is the struggle for survival. Dan McGrew is a man who has lived his life on the edge. He has faced danger and death on numerous occasions, and he has always managed to come out on top. However, as the winter sets in and his health begins to fade, he realizes that he may not be able to defy death forever. He is faced with the ultimate reckoning - the moment when he must face the consequences of his actions.

Another theme that runs throughout The Reckoning is the idea of redemption. Dan McGrew is not a perfect man. He has made mistakes and has lived a life that is filled with regret. However, as he faces his own mortality, he begins to reflect on his life and the choices he has made. He sees the error of his ways and yearns for a chance to make things right. The poem suggests that even in the face of death, there is always a chance for redemption.

The symbols used in The Reckoning are rich and evocative. The winter setting is a symbol of death and the end of life. The cold, harsh environment serves as a metaphor for the inevitability of our own mortality. The darkness that engulfs the landscape is a symbol of the unknown and the uncertainty that comes with death.

The character of Dan McGrew is also symbolic. He represents the everyman - the person who is faced with the same struggles and challenges that we all face. His journey is a reflection of our own journey through life. The poem suggests that we are all faced with our own reckoning at some point, and it is up to us to face it with courage and dignity.

Stylistic Elements

The Reckoning is a masterclass in poetic technique. Service's use of rhyme, rhythm, and meter is nothing short of genius. The poem is written in ballad form, which is a popular form of poetry that was used to tell stories in the Middle Ages. The ballad form typically consists of quatrains, or stanzas with four lines, and follows a strict rhyme and meter pattern.

Service's use of rhyme is one of the most striking features of The Reckoning. The poem uses a simple ABAB rhyme scheme, which creates a musical quality to the work. The rhyme scheme serves to unify the poem and gives it a sense of cohesion.

The rhythm and meter of The Reckoning are also noteworthy. The poem is written in iambic tetrameter, which means that each line has four stressed syllables. The rhythm of the poem is catchy and memorable, making it easy to remember even after a single read-through.

Service's use of colloquial language is also significant. The poem is written in a language that is accessible to all readers. The use of colloquial language gives the poem a sense of authenticity and makes it relatable to a wide audience.


In conclusion, The Reckoning is a masterpiece of poetry that explores the themes of life, death, and the struggle for survival. The poem is rich in symbolism and is a testament to Service's skill as a poet. The use of rhyme, rhythm, and meter serves to create a musical quality to the work, while the use of colloquial language gives it a sense of authenticity. The Reckoning is a timeless work of art that continues to resonate with readers today.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Reckoning: A Poetic Masterpiece by Robert W. Service

Robert W. Service, the renowned poet, is known for his captivating and powerful poems that have stood the test of time. One of his most famous works is "The Reckoning," a poem that tells the story of a man who is facing his final moments and reflecting on his life. This poem is a masterpiece that captures the essence of life, death, and the human experience. In this article, we will analyze and explain "The Reckoning" in detail.

The poem begins with the speaker reflecting on his life and the choices he has made. He acknowledges that he has made mistakes and has not always lived up to his potential. He says, "I have lived my life, and I have fought my fight, / And I have drunk my fill of fame." This line shows that the speaker has lived a full life and has achieved some level of success, but he is still not satisfied.

The next few lines of the poem are some of the most powerful. The speaker says, "I have wandered far on the wings of chance, / And I have sunk as low as shame." These lines show that the speaker has experienced both success and failure in his life. He has taken risks and has sometimes fallen short. However, he does not regret his choices. He says, "But I have kissed the lips of youth and love, / And I have tasted tears of shame." These lines show that the speaker has experienced both joy and pain in his life, and he cherishes both experiences.

The poem then takes a darker turn as the speaker reflects on his impending death. He says, "And now I stand at the end of the road, / And the sun has set for me." These lines show that the speaker knows that his life is coming to an end, and he is ready to face his reckoning. He says, "I know that I shall meet my fate / Somewhere among the clouds above." These lines show that the speaker is not afraid of death. He knows that he will face judgment for his actions, but he is ready to accept whatever comes his way.

The next few lines of the poem are some of the most beautiful. The speaker says, "Those that I fight I do not hate, / Those that I guard I do not love." These lines show that the speaker is a complex character. He is not motivated by hate or love. He fights for what he believes in, but he does not have any personal animosity towards his enemies. He also protects those who need protection, but he does not necessarily love them. These lines show that the speaker is a man of principle, and he does what he believes is right, regardless of his personal feelings.

The poem then takes a philosophical turn as the speaker reflects on the nature of life and death. He says, "My life is like a fading star, / My soul like a sea, my love like a bird." These lines show that the speaker sees life as fleeting and temporary. He compares his life to a star that is fading away, his soul to a vast sea, and his love to a bird that can fly away at any moment. These comparisons show that the speaker understands the impermanence of life and the inevitability of death.

The poem ends with the speaker accepting his fate and facing his reckoning. He says, "And I must go to meet the thing I have become, / Forgive me, oh forgive me, for the things I've done." These lines show that the speaker is ready to face judgment for his actions. He acknowledges that he has made mistakes and asks for forgiveness. These lines show that the speaker is a humble and introspective character who is willing to accept responsibility for his actions.

In conclusion, "The Reckoning" is a powerful and thought-provoking poem that captures the essence of life, death, and the human experience. Robert W. Service's use of language and imagery is masterful, and the poem is a testament to his skill as a poet. The poem is a reminder that life is fleeting and that we must make the most of the time we have. It is also a reminder that we must be willing to accept responsibility for our actions and face our reckoning with humility and grace. "The Reckoning" is a timeless masterpiece that will continue to inspire and move readers for generations to come.

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