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by Robert William Service |


I Laugh at Life: its antics make for me a giddy games, 
Where only foolish fellows take themselves with solemn aim. 
I laugh at pomp and vanity, at riches, rank and pride; 
At social inanity, at swager, swank and side. 
At poets, pastry-cooks and kings, at folk sublime and small, 
Who fuss about a thousand things that matter not at all; 
At those who dream of name and fame, at those who scheme for pelf.... 
But best of all the laughing game - is laughing at myself. 

Some poet chap had labelled man the noblest work of God: 
I see myself a charlatan, a humbug and a fraud. 
Yea, 'spite of show and shallow wit, an sentimental drool, 
I know myself a hypocrite, a coward and a fool. 
And though I kick myself with glee profoundly on the pants, 
I'm little worse, it seems to me, than other human ants. 
For if you probe your private mind, impervious to shame, 
Oh, Gentle Reader, you may find you're much about the same. 

Then let us mock with ancient mirth this comic, cosmic plan; 
The stars are laughing at the earth; God's greatest joke is man. 
For laughter is a buckler bright, and scorn a shining spear; 
So let us laugh with all our might at folly, fraud and fear. 
Yet on our sorry selves be spent our most sardonic glee. 
Oh don't pay life a compliment to take is seriously. 
For he who can himself despise, be surgeon to the bone, 
May win to worth in others' eyes, to wisdom in his own.

by Robert William Service |

The Comforter

 As I sat by my baby's bed
That's open to the sky,
There fluttered round and round my head
A radiant butterfly.

And as I wept -- of hearts that ache
The saddest in the land --
It left a lily for my sake,
And lighted on my hand.

I watched it, oh, so quietly,
And though it rose and flew,
As if it fain would comfort me
It came and came anew.

Now, where my darling lies at rest,
I do not dare to sigh,
For look! there gleams upon my breast
A snow-white butterfly.

by Robert William Service |

The Score

 I asked a silver sage
 With race nigh run:
'Tell me in old of age
 Your wisdom won?'
Said he: 'From fret and strife
 And vain vexation,
The all I've learned from life

I asked a Bard who thrummed
 A harp clay-cold:
'How is your story summed
 Now you are old?'
Though golden voice was his,
 And fame had he,
He sighed: 'The finish is

I'm old; I have no wealth
 Toil to reward;
Yet for the boon of health
 I thank the Lord.
While Beauty I can see,
 To live is good;
And so life's crown to me

by Robert William Service |

The Visionary

 If fortune had not granted me
 To suck the Muse's teats,
I think I would have liked to be
 A sweeper of the streets;
And city gutters glad to groom,
 Have heft a bonny broom.

There--as amid the crass and crush
 The limousines swished by,
I would have leaned upon my brush
 With visionary eye:
Deeming despite their loud allure
 That I was rich, they poor.

Aye, though in garb terrestrial,
 To Heaven I would pray,
And dream with broom celestial
 I swept the Milky Way;
And golden chariots would ring,
 And harps of Heaven sing.

And all the strumpets passing me,
 And heelers of the Ward
Would glorified Madonnas be,
 And angels of the Lord;
And all the brats in gutters grim
 Be rosy cherubim.

by Robert William Service |

A Bachelor

 'Why keep a cow when I can buy,'
 Said he, 'the milk I need,'
I wanted to spit in his eye
 Of selfishness and greed;
But did not, for the reason he
 Was stronger than I be.

I told him: ''Tis our human fate,
 For better or for worse,
That man and maid should love and mate,
 And little children nurse.
Of course, if you are less than man
 You can't do what we can.

'So many loving maids would wed,
 And wondrous mothers be.'
'I'll buy the love I want,' he said,
 'No squally brats for me.'
. . . I hope the devil stoketh well
 For him a special hell.

by Robert William Service |

The Receptionist

 France is the fairest land on earth,
 Lovely to heart's desire,
And twice a year I span its girth,
 Its beauty to admire.
But when a pub I seek each night,
 To my profound vexation
On form they hand me I've to write
 My occupation.

So once in a derisive mood
 My pen I nibbled;
And though I know I never should:
 'Gangster' I scribbled.
But as the clerk with startled face
 Looked stark suspicion,
I blurred it out and in its place
 Put 'Politician.'

Then suddenly dissolved his frown;
 His face fused to a grin,
As humorously he set down
 The form I handed in.
His shrug was eloquent to view.
 Quoth he: 'What's in a name?
In France, alas! the lousy two
 Are just the same.'

by Robert William Service |


 Let us have birthdays every day,
(I had the thought while I was shaving)
Because a birthday should be gay,
And full of grace and good behaving.
We can't have cakes and candles bright,
And presents are beyond our giving,
But let lt us cherish with delight
The birthday way of lovely living.

For I have passed three-score and ten
And I can count upon my fingers
The years I hope to bide with men,
(Though by God's grace one often lingers.)
So in the summers left to me,
Because I'm blest beyond my merit,
I hope with gratitude and glee
To sparkle with the birthday spirit.

Let me inform myself each day
Who's proudmost on the natal roster;
If Washington or Henry Clay,
Or Eugene Field or Stephen Foster.
oh lots of famous folks I'll find
Who more than measure to my rating,
And so thanksgivingly inclined
Their birthdays I'll be celebrating.

For Oh I know the cheery glow|
Of Anniversary rejoicing;
Let me reflect its radiance so
My daily gladness I'll be voicing.
And though I'm stooped and silver-haired,
Let me with laughter make the hearth gay,
So by the gods I may be spared
Each year to hear: "Pop, Happy Birthday."

by Robert William Service |

If You Had A Friend

 If you had a friend strong, simple, true,
Who knew your faults and who understood;
Who believed in the very best of you,
And who cared for you as a father would;
Who would stick by you to the very end,
Who would smile however the world might frown:
I'm sure you would try to please your friend,
You never would think to throw him down.

And supposing your friend was high and great,
And he lived in a palace rich and tall,
And sat like a King in shining state,
And his praise was loud on the lips of all;
Well then, when he turned to you alone,
And he singled you out from all the crowd,
And he called you up to his golden throne,
Oh, wouldn't you just be jolly proud?

If you had a friend like this, I say,
So sweet and tender, so strong and true,
You'd try to please him in every way,
You'd live at your bravest -- now, wouldn't you?
His worth would shine in the words you penned;
You'd shout his praises . . . yet now it's odd!
You tell me you haven't got such a friend;
You haven't? I wonder . . . What of God?

by Robert William Service |

I Have Some Friends

 I have some friends, some worthy friends,
And worthy friends are rare:
These carpet slippers on my feet,
That padded leather chair;
This old and shabby dressing-gown,
So well the worse of wear.

I have some friends, some honest friends,
And honest friends are few;
My pipe of briar, my open fire,
A book that's not too new;
My bed so warm, the nights of storm
I love to listen to.

I have some friends, some good, good friends,
Who faithful are to me:
My wrestling partner when I rise,
The big and burly sea;
My little boat that's riding there
So saucy and so free.

I have some friends, some golden friends,
Whose worth will not decline:
A tawny Irish terrier, a purple shading pine,
A little red-roofed cottage that
So proudly I call mine.

All other friends may come and go,
All other friendships fail;
But these, the friends I've worked to win,
Oh, they will never stale;
And comfort me till Time shall write
The finish to my tale.

by Robert William Service |

The Cremation Of Sam McGee

 There are strange things done in the midnight sun
 By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
 That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
 But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
 I cremated Sam McGee.

Now Sam McGee was from Tennessee, where the cotton blooms and blows.
Why he left his home in the South to roam 'round the Pole, God only knows.
He was always cold, but the land of gold seemed to hold him like a spell;
Though he'd often say in his homely way that he'd "sooner live in hell".

On a Christmas Day we were mushing our way over the Dawson trail.
Talk of your cold! through the parka's fold it stabbed like a driven nail.
If our eyes we'd close, then the lashes froze till sometimes we couldn't see;
It wasn't much fun, but the only one to whimper was Sam McGee.

And that very night, as we lay packed tight in our robes beneath the snow,
And the dogs were fed, and the stars o'erhead were dancing heel and toe,
He turned to me, and "Cap," says he, "I'll cash in this trip, I guess;
And if I do, I'm asking that you won't refuse my last request."

Well, he seemed so low that I couldn't say no; then he says with a sort of moan:
"It's the cursed cold, and it's got right hold till I'm chilled clean through to the bone.
Yet 'tain't being dead -- it's my awful dread of the icy grave that pains;
So I want you to swear that, foul or fair, you'll cremate my last remains."

A pal's last need is a thing to heed, so I swore I would not fail;
And we started on at the streak of dawn; but God! he looked ghastly pale.
He crouched on the sleigh, and he raved all day of his home in Tennessee;
And before nightfall a corpse was all that was left of Sam McGee.

There wasn't a breath in that land of death, and I hurried, horror-driven,
With a corpse half hid that I couldn't get rid, because of a promise given;
It was lashed to the sleigh, and it seemed to say:
"You may tax your brawn and brains,
But you promised true, and it's up to you to cremate those last remains."

Now a promise made is a debt unpaid, and the trail has its own stern code.
In the days to come, though my lips were dumb, in my heart how I cursed that load.
In the long, long night, by the lone firelight, while the huskies, round in a ring,
Howled out their woes to the homeless snows -- O God! how I loathed the thing.

And every day that quiet clay seemed to heavy and heavier grow;
And on I went, though the dogs were spent and the grub was getting low;
The trail was bad, and I felt half mad, but I swore I would not give in;
And I'd often sing to the hateful thing, and it hearkened with a grin.

Till I came to the marge of Lake Lebarge, and a derelict there lay;
It was jammed in the ice, but I saw in a trice it was called the "Alice May".
And I looked at it, and I thought a bit, and I looked at my frozen chum;
Then "Here," said I, with a sudden cry, "is my cre-ma-tor-eum."

Some planks I tore from the cabin floor, and I lit the boiler fire;
Some coal I found that was lying around, and I heaped the fuel higher;
The flames just soared, and the furnace roared -- such a blaze you seldom see;
And I burrowed a hole in the glowing coal, and I stuffed in Sam McGee.

Then I made a hike, for I didn't like to hear him sizzle so;
And the heavens scowled, and the huskies howled, and the wind began to blow.
It was icy cold, but the hot sweat rolled down my cheeks, and I don't know why;
And the greasy smoke in an inky cloak went streaking down the sky.

I do not know how long in the snow I wrestled with grisly fear;
But the stars came out and they danced about ere again I ventured near;
I was sick with dread, but I bravely said: "I'll just take a peep inside.
I guess he's cooked, and it's time I looked"; . . . then the door I opened wide.

And there sat Sam, looking cool and calm, in the heart of the furnace roar;
And he wore a smile you could see a mile, and he said: "Please close that door.
It's fine in here, but I greatly fear you'll let in the cold and storm --
Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee, it's the first time I've been warm."

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
 By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
 That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
 But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
 I cremated Sam McGee.