Category: Robert Service Poetry

The Heart Of The Sourdough

There where the mighty mountains bare their fangs unto the moon,
There where the sullen sun-dogs glare in the snow-bright, bitter noon,
And the glacier-glutted streams sweep down at the clarion call of June.

There where the livid tundras keep their tryst with the tranquil snows;
There where the silences are spawned, and the light of hell-fire flows
Into the bowl of the midnight sky, violet, amber and rose.

There where the rapids churn and roar, and the ice-floes bellowing run;
Where the tortured, twisted rivers of blood rush to the setting sun —
I’ve packed my kit and I’m going, boys, ere another day is done.

* * * * *

I knew it would call, or soon or late, as it calls the whirring wings;
It’s the olden lure, it’s the golden lure, it’s the lure of the timeless things,
And to-night, oh, God of the trails untrod, how it whines in my heart-strings!

I’m sick to death of your well-groomed gods, your make believe and your show;
I long for a whiff of bacon and beans, a snug shakedown in the snow;
A trail to break, and a life at stake, and another bout with the foe.

With the raw-ribbed Wild that abhors all life, the Wild that would crush and rend,
I have clinched and closed with the naked North, I have learned to defy and defend;
Shoulder to shoulder we have fought it out — yet the Wild must win in the end.

I have flouted the Wild. I have followed its lure, fearless, familiar, alone;
By all that the battle means and makes I claim that land for mine own;
Yet the Wild must win, and a day will come when I shall be overthrown.

Then when as wolf-dogs fight we’ve fought, the lean wolf-land and I;
Fought and bled till the snows are red under the reeling sky;
Even as lean wolf-dog goes down will I go down and die.

Robert Service

Robert Service

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Robert was a simple poet from a rough and tumble time. I fell in love with his work while a resident of Alaska and to this day consider him to be my favorite. Therefore I will start this new section with him as a permanent feature.

The following obituary appeared in the Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph of Sept. 16, 1958:

A GREAT POET died last week in Lancieux, France, at the age of 84.

He was not a poet’s poet. Fancy-Dan dilettantes will dispute the description “great.” He was a people’s poet. To the people he was great. They understood him, and knew that any verse carrying the by-line of Robert W. Service would be a lilting thing, clear, clean and power-packed, beating out a story with a dramatic intensity that made the nerves tingle. And he was no poor, garret-type poet, either. His stuff made money hand over fist. One piece alone, The Shooting of Dan McGrew, rolled up half a million dollars for him. He lived it up well and also gave a great deal to help others.

“The only society I like,” he once said, “is that which is rough and tough – and the tougher the better. That’s where you get down to bedrock and meet human people.” He found that kind of society in the Yukon gold rush, and he immortalized it.

I second that emotion.

The two most popular Service story poems . . .

The Shooting Of Dan McGrew:

The Cremation Of Sam McGee: