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by Robert William Service |

Divine Device

 Would it be loss or gain
To hapless human-kind
If we could feel no pain
Of body or of mind?
Would it be for our good
If we were calloused so,
And God in mercy should
End all our woe?

I wonder and I doubt:
It is my bright belief
We should be poor without
The gift of grief.
For suffering may be
A blessing, not a bane,
And though we sorrow we
Should praise for Pain.

Aye, it's my brave belief
That grateful we should be,
Since in the heart of grief
Is love and sympathy,
We do not weep in vain,
So let us kiss the rod,
And see in purging Pain
The Grace of God.


by Robert William Service |

Rhyme Builder

 I envy not those gay galoots
Who count on dying in their boots;
For that, to tell the sober truth
Sould be the privilege of youth;
But aged bones are better sped
To heaven from a downy bed.

So prop me up with pillows two,
And serve me with the barley brew;
And put a pencil in my hand,
A copy book at my command;
And let my final effort be
To ring a rhyme of homely glee.

For since I've loved it oh so long,
Let my last labour be in song;
And when my pencil falters down,
Oh may a final couplet crown
The years of striving I have made
To justify the jinglers trade.

Let me surrender with a rhyme
My long and lovely lease of time;
Let me be grateful for the gift
To couple words in lyric lift;
Let me song-build with humble hod,
My last brick dedicate to God.


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.


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 |

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 |

Birthdays

 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 |

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 |

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 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 |

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
 Is--Resignation.'

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
 --Futility.'

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
 Is--Gratitude