‘The Parting of the Year’ by Anna de Brémont is a two stanza poem which is separated into one set of eight lines, or octave, and one set of six lines, or sestet. The poem follows a consistent and structured rhyme scheme of abbaacca dedede. Through close analysis, one might see a resembles between this rhyme scheme and that which is considered to be a traditional Italian or Petrarchan sonnet of fourteen lines and an abbaabba cdcdcd rhyme scheme.
A reader should also take note of the larger indention used in the formatting of the second stanza. This type of pattern is usual. It has been utilized in an attempt to create a greater separation between the first and second half of the poem. Additionally, this surprising indention increases a reader’s engagement with the text as one’s eyes are made to move right with the lines.
This piece begins with the speaker stating that it is the last hour of the last day of the year. She is deeply saddened by this fact; an element the poet enhanced through the personification of the old year. It is spoken of like the speaker’ male lover—someone who was generous, loving, and very dear to her. The two are trying to comfort one another but are failing as they both know there is nothing to be done but face the future.
The “Old Year” is just as sad about this parting as the speaker is, perhaps more so as it signals “his” death.
In the second half of the poem, the afterlife opens up and calls to the “Old Year.” It is his time to move on to death. The final midnight hour is over and with a trembling sigh the “Old Year” vanishes into the “starlight.”
The last three lines describe how the speaker comes to terms with the fact there is nothing she can do to remain in, or reclaim, the past. She takes the hand of the “New Year” and the new couple faces the future together.
Analysis of The Parting of the Year
The midnight hour had come. With tearful eyes
And sad the Old Year strained I to my breast.
For we were loth to part—his lips I pressed
All tenderly in answer to his sighs.
A generous lover he; to say good-bye
Wrung heart and soul, bowed was his head and chilled
The hand with gifts and blessings lately filled.
’Twas hard to part—the dear Old Year and I.
In the first stanza of this piece, the speaker begins by describing the end of the day. The hour of “midnight” has come to this particular day and brought about a number of different emotions. If one does not refer to the title, this moment could be occurring on any number of days throughout the year. But with access to the title, one is able to interpret the fact that this is the last hour of the last day of a year.
Rather than celebrating the coming of a new year, this speaker is clinging to the “Old Year” with all of her strength. She has no desire to let it go and is holding it to her “breast.” This is a very curious emotion to have and might lead a reader to wonder what it is about the new year she dreads, or what it was about the old year she loved so much.
In the next line, the poet has chosen to personify the “Old Year.” It is able to feel emotions, just like the speaker. It too is sad about the current hour. It is “loth to part” with the speaker. The personification is taken further with the description of the year as a man. It is a lover to the speaker and she presses “his lips… All tenderly in answer to his sighs.” They are trying to comfort one another but it is time to say goodbye.
She recalls the year as being a “generous lover.” This might mean that she got from the previous months everything she could have wanted; all of her goals were achieved and all her dreams came true.
The parting is just as hard for the year as it is for the speaker. His heart and soul are in pain, and he “bow[s]” his head in sorrow. The year’s hands, the same ones which bestowed the speaker with “gifts and blessings,” are now “chilled.”
Lo! as he lingered, came thro’ casement pane
A silvery summons echoing far and near.
He faltered, trembled, gasped, then thrust atwain
The casement, vanished in the starlight clear,
No vestige leaving of his happy reign,
While hand in hand stood I and the New Year!
In the second stanza, the narrative moves beyond the “midnight hour” which was spoken of in the first stanza, to the death of the year. Their last hour is over and as he was “linger[ing]” alongside his lover, a “summons” came from the other side. It was “silvery” and seemed to “echo” from “far and near.” This is the death, the afterlife, or some higher being, calling time onward. The “Old Year” is passing on, just as a human would.
The year suffers for only a moment. He “tremble[s]” slighting and then is “thrust atwain,” or into two parts, into the distant “starlight.” This is his official death and the last moment of the current year. The New Year begins immediately.
There is no more time for mourning in the speaker’s world. The Old Year left nothing behind it, no reminder of “his happy reign.” It is time to embrace the new. She stands “hand in hand” with “the New Year” in this moment, looking into the future.