The Panic of Growing Older by Lenrie Peters

The panic

of growing older

spreads fluttering winds

from year to year


At twenty

stilled by hope

of gigantic success

time and exploration


At thirty

a sudden throb of

pain. Laboratory tests

have nothing to show


Legs cribbed

in domesticity allow

no sudden leaps

at the noon now


Copybook bisected

with red ink

and failures-

nothing to show the world


Three children perhaps

the world expects

it of you. No

specialist’s effort there.


But science gives hope

of twice three score

and ten. Hope

is not a grain of sand.


Inner satisfaction

dwindles in sharp

blades of expectation.

From now on the world has you.

About the Poet

Lenrie Peters (1932-2009) wrote the poem The Panic of Growing Older. He was a Gambian writer, poet, singer, broadcaster and surgeon. He studied in Gambia, Sierra Leone and England. He published his collection of poems titled Satellites in 1967. Though renowned for his poems, he has a novel to his credit titled The Second Round. In The Panic of Growing Older, the poet brought to bear his medical background as he described the physiological and psychological process of aging.


The poem is about the different phases of human development starting from birth through adulthood and old age. The aging process is slow: spreads fluttering winds from year to year.

In the second stanza, the poet describes what happens in early adulthood. This period is filled with high expectations, hopes, ambition, and adventure. One also has the advantage of time: At twenty/stilled by hope/ of gigantic success/ time and exploration.

The next stanza describes age thirty as the period when one begins to experience pain that lacks medical explanation: At thirty a sudden throb of pain. Laboratory tests have nothing to show.

The fourth stanza portrays what happens in old age. As one approaches old age, weakness sets in and one loses agility: Legs cribbed /in domesticity allow/ no sudden leaps/ at the noon now. Often, one spends all his years on earth trying to copy others without success: Copybook bisected /with red ink and failures. In the end, he has nothing to show the world except children which the poet does not consider an achievement: Three children perhaps/ the world expects /it of you. No/ specialist’s effort there.

Although science gives hope of living up to seventy years, this is not a sure fact: But science gives hope of twice three score and ten. Hope is not a grain of sand. In old age, the thoughts of unfulfilled dreams and aspirations bring weakness to the mind: Inner satisfaction dwindles in sharp blades of expectation.

With not much time left, the aged has very little control of his life and simply resigns to fate: From now on the world has you.


This is a free verse poem with no consistent meter pattern or rhyme scheme. It has eight stanzas written in short phrases and arranged chronologically. Each stanza describes the different phases of life.


The poem’s language is simple. However, the poet uses symbols to represent the aging process. Examples include: “legs cribbed”, “throb of pain”.


The poem’s main theme is the fear of aging or growing old. Other themes are mortality of man and life’s uncertainties.

Mood and Tone

The mood is passive. Though the pain associated with aging is undesirable, the poet accepts that aging is inevitable. The tone is calm.

Poetic Devices

1. Metaphor: Example- “fluttering winds” which describes the anxiety of aging.

2. Symbols: Examples- “sudden throb of pain“,”legs cribbed” represent weakness associated with aging. “Hope of gigantic success/ time and exploration” represent the youthful age.

3. Repetition: The word “hope” was repeated in the seventh stanza.

4. Alliteration: Example- “from year to year”

What other figures of speech can you identify in this poem?

See also The Dining Table, Ambush, Vanity, The Anvil and the Hammer, The school boy, and Othello.



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  1. Oyeyiola olukayode Reply

    Nice summary…keep it up ma.

  2. Glory Reply

    Thank you Barrister dayo….what about other poems like piano and drums by gabriel okara, ambush by gbemisola adeoti and the proud king by william moris? Help us please….thank u

  3. Glory Reply

    Onomatopeia: example-fluttering

    • Johnson Reply

      In this case, the expression is not denoting any kinda sound.

  4. mhercygrhacy Reply


  5. Tawakalt Reply

    What about the use of enjambment also known as run-on-line is used through out the poem

    • Dayo Okubule Reply

      @Tawakalt. Thanks for your observation on the use of run-on-lines. Readers should take note of this.

  6. Splendee Reply

    Assonance: Nothing to SHOW the WORLD.

    • Dayo Okubule Reply

      @Splendee. Thanks.

  7. Clever Reply

    Thanks alot Dayo for ur analysis and those who also contributed but I don’t think Onomatopoeia is in the poem cuz fluttering is not a kind of sound,its a word with meaning so I don’t think or rather I know,there isn’t no Onomatopoeia in the poem tho..Thanks again Dayo for all ur writtings,we appreciate.

  8. Clever Reply

    Thanks Dayo

  9. emmanue inayah Reply

    miss dayo am always impressed or in love with all your analysis on dramas,prose& really grateful for dis cos u’v been a miracle not only to me but other as well & come to think of it jesus said its more blessed to give than to receive,so keep on puting smiles on the faces of other and GOD would not turn his back agains u wen u need him.i hope for that day u would analyse my book/poem.tank u

  10. Nkani Collins Reply

    Nice one dayo. U’ve really helped us with your summery.

  11. Ojo mayre Reply


  12. Daddy's Queen Reply

    we also have IMAGERY

  13. Tawakalt Reply

    Yea that is true…we also have imagery

  14. Vic Reply

    Am happy to be here. Thanks-Dayo

  15. Jimoh Gafar Reply

    Lovely nice one . more power to your elbow.

  16. Smartprince Reply

    Personification : The World has you last line of stanza 8 … World was personified ….

  17. Agnes Degbor Reply

    Thanks so much really gonna help me in my wassce

  18. seun Reply

    Miss Dayo, Euphemism is also found in the poem… “nothing to show the world” and this Implies total Failure.

  19. feranmi Reply

    May our LORD JESUS CHRIST enlarge your coast sis.

  20. sedara olomoniyi Reply

    thanks for putting young readers through

  21. Umar Al'amin Reply

    Thank you very much Dayo ma’am….may your efforts not put into jeopardy.

  22. progress Reply

    Please I thought twice three score and ten is means seventy years

    • Dayo Okubule Reply

      @progress. You are right. Twice three score and ten is 70. I’ve corrected it. Thanks for the observation.

  23. Obed Reply

    Please,three score and ten is 70 and it’s twice making 140. Thanks

  24. Abubakar danmusa Reply

    Good morning, please may i have clearly explanation of the tittle of poem

  25. pastor Solomon Reply

    the poem is a very good one

  26. Friday Reply

    can u please give me the summary in panic of growing old

  27. Oluwakemi Reply

    Kudos to the writer. I believe twice three score{2(60)} and ten is 130 years. Please, look into this. Thank you

  28. Onwe chibuike peter Reply

    Barrister dayo, I am so impressed to have u, u have been an obstacle breaker to me and the world.
    God will multiply ur blessing…Amen. Keep it up.

  29. Agbator Anthony Reply

    In the 8th stanza, I think the ‘poeta persona’ refers to the hope science bring as been bleak; hence, meaning that ‘hope is not a grain of sand’ – hope is not limited in nature, but unlimited. Science’s hope then stands as an illusion – solely transient and limited.

  30. Agbator Anthony Reply

    Also, on the matter of score…
    Obed stands correct.

  31. Adams kwhinde Reply

    Tank u mama…I enjoyed ur explanation…keep it up

  32. Ibifiri Reply

    Thank you for all your helpful analysis’ on poems and books, madam. They have always proved helpful in my exams. But I want to correct you on that ‘twice three score and ten’. It literally means 2(3×20)+10 which is equal to 130 not 70 or 140. Once again thank you for your work, ma.

  33. Nnaka Johnson Reply

    There is also use of Allusion in the poem.
    Lenrie Peters made a biblical reference.
    Most when he use three score and ten,which simply means the glorious age of seventy and above.

  34. Nnaka Johnson Reply

    PLEASE keep the fire burning@Dayo

  35. KENNEDY PAUL Reply

    I am happy for this ma,it has really help me in my assignment.But please ma try to add more poetic device.Thanks for your understanding ma.God bless you with more knowleged. Amen

  36. Noel Reply

    Onomatopoeia .eg “throb

  37. A.E.Koroma Reply

    All I can say is, God to bless you and gives you more wisdom in career. Ma, you are helping hundreds of student globally. Thanks !
    Ezekiel, Magburaka, Sierra Leone


    three score literally means (sixty) 60 and so, twice 60 is equal to 120. And Ten simply means plus 10 which sums up to 130.

    • Dayo Okubule Reply

      You have a good point here. Thanks for the comment.

  39. dickarmien a deemie Reply

    i am finding it difficult to analyse poems by my self

  40. Marvel Reply

    Please help me with Crossing the bar,the pulley,birches,the anvil and the hammar and shall I compare thee to a summer’s day

  41. CHRYSM Reply

    It is generally believed that the average lifespan of man is 70 years, which is threescore and 10. Science (through medical discovery) promises to double this for man. If the hope offered by science is anything to go by, one has another opportunity to relive one’s dreams and aspirations. However, the poetic persona sees this as mere illusion since hope is not something hope objective reality. Thus, twice threescore and ten is 140 i.e. 2(60+10)

  42. CHRYSM Reply

    …..since hope has no objective reality

  43. Oyinkansola Reply

    Personification :the panic of growing older spreads fluttering wings

  44. sir joe Reply

    nice one

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