'The Pines' by Robert W. Service

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We sleep in the sleep of ages, the bleak, barbarian pines;
The gray moss drapes us like sages, and closer we lock our lines,
And deeper we clutch through the gelid gloom
where never a sunbeam shines.

On the flanks of the storm-gored ridges
are our black battalions massed;
We surge in a host to the sullen coast,
and we sing in the ocean blast;
From empire of sea to empire of snow we grip our empire fast.

To the niggard lands were we driven,
'twixt desert and floes are we penned;
To us was the Northland given, ours to stronghold and defend;
Ours till the world be riven in the crash of the utter end;

Ours from the bleak beginning, through the aeons of death-like sleep;
Ours from the shock when the naked rock
was hurled from the hissing deep;
Ours through the twilight ages of weary glacier creep.

Wind of the East, Wind of the West, wandering to and fro,
Chant your songs in our topmost boughs, that the sons of men may know
The peerless pine was the first to come,
and the pine will be last to go!

We pillar the halls of perfumed gloom; we plume where the eagles soar;
The North-wind swoops from the brooding Pole,
and our ancients crash and roar;
But where one falls from the crumbling walls shoots up a hardy score.

We spring from the gloom of the canyon's womb;
in the valley's lap we lie;
From the white foam-fringe, where the breakers cringe
to the peaks that tusk the sky,
We climb, and we peer in the crag-locked mere
that gleams like a golden eye.

Gain to the verge of the hog-back ridge where the vision ranges free:
Pines and pines and the shadow of pines as far as the eye can see;
A steadfast legion of stalwart knights in dominant empery.

Sun, moon and stars give answer; shall we not staunchly stand,
Even as now, forever, wards of the wilder strand,
Sentinels of the stillness, lords of the last, lone land?

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Pines: A Masterpiece of Robert W. Service

Robert W. Service is one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, and for good reason. His poetry is powerful, evocative, and full of emotion. One of his most famous poems is The Pines, a beautiful tribute to the majestic trees that dot our landscapes. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will delve deep into the poem’s meaning, structure, and language, and explore why it is still relevant today.

The Pines: An Overview

The Pines is a poem that celebrates the beauty and power of nature. It is a paean to the towering trees that dominate our landscapes, and it captures the majesty and grandeur of these ancient sentinels. The poem is structured around the contrast between the city and the countryside, with the pines representing the latter. It takes us from the hustle and bustle of the urban world to the peace and serenity of the forest, and reminds us of the importance of nature in our lives.

Structure and Form

The Pines is a poem that is written in free verse, with no set rhyme or meter. This is a common feature of Service’s poetry, and it allows him to create a natural and conversational tone. The lack of structure also gives the poem a sense of freedom and spontaneity, as if the words are flowing effortlessly from the poet’s pen.

The poem is divided into six stanzas of varying length, each of which explores a different aspect of the pines. The first stanza sets the scene, describing the noise and chaos of the city. The second stanza introduces the pines, and contrasts their quiet strength with the frenetic energy of the city. The third stanza explores the physical characteristics of the trees, while the fourth stanza delves deeper into their emotional and spiritual significance. The fifth stanza is a meditation on the passing of time, and the final stanza brings the poem to a close with a sense of peace and contentment.

Language and Imagery

The language of The Pines is powerful and evocative, full of vivid imagery and sensory detail. Service uses words like “whispering,” “murmuring,” and “sighing” to create a sense of the trees’ movement and sound. He also employs a range of sensory details, from the smell of pine needles to the feel of rough bark underfoot, to bring the scene alive.

The imagery in The Pines is equally impressive. Service uses metaphors to compare the trees to various other things, such as “pillars of a temple” and “ancient warriors.” These comparisons not only highlight the grandeur and strength of the trees, but also connect them to broader cultural and historical themes.

Themes and Meanings

The Pines is a poem that explores a range of themes, from the power of nature to the passing of time. At its core, however, the poem is a meditation on the importance of finding peace and serenity in a busy and chaotic world. It reminds us that, no matter how frenetic our lives may be, there is always a quiet and restful place to be found in nature.

One of the most striking themes of The Pines is the contrast between the city and the countryside. The poem sets up a stark contrast between the noise, pollution, and frenetic energy of the city, and the quiet, peaceful, and timeless world of the pines. This contrast highlights the importance of nature in our lives, and reminds us that we need to take time to step back from our busy lives and experience the natural world around us.

Another important theme of The Pines is the idea of time and mortality. Service uses the image of the ancient trees to underscore the fleeting nature of human life. The trees have been around for centuries, and will continue to stand long after we are gone. This reminder of our own mortality can be both comforting and unsettling, but it ultimately helps us to appreciate the time we have and to make the most of it.


In conclusion, The Pines is a masterpiece of poetry that celebrates the beauty and power of nature. It is a reminder of the importance of finding peace and serenity in a busy and chaotic world, and a meditation on the passing of time and the fleeting nature of human life. Through its powerful language, vivid imagery, and poignant themes, The Pines continues to resonate with readers today and inspire us to appreciate the natural world around us.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Pines: A Poem of Nature's Majesty

Robert W. Service's "The Pines" is a classic poem that captures the beauty and majesty of nature. The poem is a celebration of the pine trees, which are a symbol of strength, resilience, and endurance. The poem is a tribute to the power of nature and the enduring spirit of life.

The poem begins with a description of the pine trees, which are "tall and straight and darkly green." The trees are described as "giants" that "tower to the sky." The imagery is vivid and powerful, and it immediately transports the reader to a world of natural wonder and beauty.

The poem then goes on to describe the sound of the pine trees, which is "a murmur and a sigh." The sound is described as "a song of life and death." This imagery is particularly powerful, as it captures the cyclical nature of life and the way in which nature is constantly renewing itself.

The poem then moves on to describe the way in which the pine trees are able to withstand the elements. The trees are described as "sturdy" and "strong," and they are able to withstand "the tempest's shock." This imagery is a testament to the resilience of nature, and it reminds us that even in the face of adversity, life can endure.

The poem then takes a more philosophical turn, as it reflects on the meaning of life. The poet asks, "What is life but a daring adventure?" This question is a powerful reminder that life is a journey, and that we must be willing to take risks and embrace the unknown in order to truly live.

The poem then returns to the imagery of the pine trees, describing them as "the sentinels of time." This imagery is a reminder that nature is timeless, and that the beauty and majesty of the natural world will endure long after we are gone.

The poem then concludes with a powerful image of the pine trees standing "in the silence of eternity." This image is a reminder that nature is eternal, and that even in the face of death, life endures.

Overall, "The Pines" is a powerful and moving poem that celebrates the beauty and majesty of nature. The poem is a reminder that even in the face of adversity, life can endure, and that the natural world is a source of strength and inspiration. The poem is a tribute to the power of nature and the enduring spirit of life, and it is a testament to the enduring power of poetry to capture the beauty and majesty of the world around us.

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