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Robert William Service Biography | Poet

Photo of Robert William Service

Robert William Service was a British-Canadian poet. There aren't a great deal of famous Canadian poets, which makes Robert William Service even more important and special than he would have been otherwise. His nickname is the 'Bard of the Yukon' and he didn't earn it for nothing. He was born in 1874 on the 16th of January in the City of Preston, Lancashire, United Kingdom. He died on September 11th long before it became a notable date in the year 1958 in Lancieux, France. Rhymes of a Red Cross Man and Songs of a Sourdough are his most famous works.

The Education of Robert William Service

Robert William Service went to Hillhead High School. He later attended the University of Glasgow and McGill University. Robert William Service was much more educated than many people in his time, especially the people who came from families as large as his. He was a poor student at McGill University, but he did at least manage to get something out of his schooling there.

Family and Work Life

Service was the eldest child in a family of ten children, which was much more common during the nineteenth century. He lived with his three maiden aunts and his grandfather starting at the age of five, and went back to his parents at the age of nine. He went to Canada when he was 21, which was around the point at which he became associated with Canada specifically.

It should be noted that his nickname of the Bard of the Yukon was not just metaphoric. A good portion of his work touches on his experiences with the people of the Yukon, as well as its terrain. He is not a reliable source on what it was like during the Klondike gold rush, since he came too late in the game and lacked the rugged experience of many of the genuine participants. However, his poetry still paints a very vivid image of the period and of the mindset of many of the people like Robert William Service.

The Accomplishments of Robert William Service

Robert William Service's most famous works are Songs of a Sourdough and Rhymes of a Red Cross Man. These works were extremely popular in their day, and they are still read today. In a time in which poetry was still one of the most well-regarded art forms, Robert William Service was able to bring it to the common person.

He managed to do a lot of other popular writing. Some of his thriller novels actually became silent movies, making him an early example of a writer popular enough for his writing to have inspired films. However, silent movies have aged even worse than modern poetry, and Robert William Service is still more well-known today as a poet than he is as any sort of popular novelist who helped inspire silent films.

The Legacy of Robert William Service

It should be noted that Robert William Service was be no means an inaccessible critical darling during his lifetime. On the contrary: the literary establishment of the day more or less considered his work lowbrow entertainment. He was sarcastically referred to as the Canadian Kipling, which was more of an insult to him than an insult to Kipling, although history has been very kind to both of them.

Robert William Service was able to compose poems very quickly and readily. He was not the sort of poet who labored over each and every verse. Robert William Service specifically wanted to avoid creating the sort of poems that would only be accessible to the most well-read people in the world in his time. He wanted the poems that would appeal to people all across society, and it seems that he succeeded. His poems were among the most commercially successful poems of the day.

Poetry that focused on any sort of location was more popular at the time, largely because traveling was much more difficult and expensive than it is today. However, the fact that Robert William Service actually wrote poetry and literature that was popular in its day makes it particularly useful from a historical context. It makes it easier to evaluate what people at the time actually liked and what got them interested in reading poetry. Robert William Service was in touch with the zeitgeist of his time. 

Robert William Service: Poems | Best Poems | Short Poems | Quotes

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