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The Ballad Of Salvation Bill

Written by: Robert William Service | Biography
 | Quotes (2) |
 'Twas in the bleary middle of the hard-boiled Arctic night,
I was lonesome as a loon, so if you can,
Imagine my emotions of amazement and delight
When I bumped into that Missionary Man.
He was lying lost and dying in the moon's unholy leer, And frozen from his toes to finger-tips' The famished wolf-pack ringed him; but he didn't seem to fear, As he pressed his ice-bond Bible to his lips.
'Twas the limit of my trap-line, with the cabin miles away, And every step was like a stab of pain; But I packed him like a baby, and I nursed him night and day, Till I got him back to health and strength again.
So there we were, benighted in the shadow of the Pole, And he might have proved a priceless little pard, If he hadn't got to worrying about my blessed soul, And a-quotin' me his Bible by the yard.
Now there was I, a husky guy, whose god was Nicotine, With a "coffin-nail" a fixture in my mug; I rolled them in the pages of a pulpwood magazine, And hacked them with my jack-knife from the plug.
For, Oh to know the bliss and glow that good tobacco means, Just live among the everlasting ice .
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So judge my horror when I found my stock of magazines Was chewed into a chowder by the mice.
A woeful week went by and not a single pill I had, Me that would smoke my forty in a day; I sighed, I swore, I strode the floor; I felt I would go mad: The gospel-plugger watched me with dismay.
My brow was wet, my teeth were set, my nerves were rasping raw; And yet that preacher couldn't understand: So with despair I wrestled there - when suddenly I saw The volume he was holding in his hand.
Then something snapped inside my brain, and with an evil start The wolf-man in me woke to rabid rage.
"I saved your lousy life," says I; "so show you have a heart, And tear me out a solitary page.
" He shrank and shrivelled at my words; his face went pewter white; 'Twas just as if I'd handed him a blow: And then .
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and then he seemed to swell, and grow to Heaven's height, And in a voice that rang he answered: "No!" I grabbed my loaded rifle and I jabbed it to his chest: "Come on, you shrimp, give me that Book," says I.
Well sir, he was a parson, but he stacked up with the best, And for grit I got to hand it to the guy.
"If I should let you desecrate this Holy Word," he said, "My soul would be eternally accurst; So go on, Bill, I'm ready.
You can pump me full of lead And take it, but - you've got to kill me first.
" Now I'm no foul assassin, though I'm full of sinful ways, And I knew right there the fellow had me beat; For I felt a yellow mongrel in the glory of his gaze, And I flung my foolish firearm at his feet, Then wearily I turned away, and dropped upon my bunk, And there I lay and blubbered like a kid.
"Forgive me, pard," says I at last, "for acting like a skunk, But hide the blasted rifle.
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" Which he did.
And he also hid his Bible, which was maybe just as well, For the sight of all that paper gave me pain; And there were crimson moments when I felt I'd o to hell To have a single cigarette again.
And so I lay day after day, and brooded dark and deep, Until one night I thought I'd end it all; Then rough I roused the preacher, where he stretched pretending sleep, With his map of horror turned towards the wall.
"See here, my pious pal," says I, "I've stood it long enough.
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Behold! I've mixed some strychnine in a cup; Enough to kill a dozen men - believe me it's no bluff; Now watch me, for I'm gonna drink it up.
You've seen me bludgeoned by despair through bitter days and nights, And now you'll see me squirming as I die.
You're not to blame, you've played the game according to your lights.
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But how would Christ have played it? - Well, good-bye.
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" With that I raised the deadly drink and laid it to my lips, But he was on me with a tiger-bound; And as we locked and reeled and rocked with wild and wicked grips, The poison cup went crashing to the ground.
"Don't do it, Bill," he madly shrieked.
"Maybe I acted wrong.
See, here's my Bible - use it as you will; But promise me - you'll read a little as you go along.
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You do! Then take it, Brother; smoke your fill.
" And so I did.
I smoked and smoked from Genesis to Job, And as I smoked I read each blessed word; While in the shadow of his bunk I heard him sigh and sob, And then .
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a most peculiar thing occurred.
I got to reading more and more, and smoking less and less, Till just about the day his heart was broke, Says I: "Here, take it back, me lad.
I've had enough I guess.
Your paper makes a mighty rotten smoke.
" So then and there with plea and prayer he wrestled for my soul, And I was racked and ravaged by regrets.
But God was good, for lo! next day there came the police patrol, With paper for a thousand cigarettes.
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So now I'm called Salvation Bill; I teach the Living Law, And Bally-hoo the Bible with the best; And if a guy won't listen - why, I sock him on the jaw, And preach the Gospel sitting on his chest.



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