Poems by Robert William Service

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If you had the choice of two women to wed
That boy I took in the car last night,
Clorinda met me on the way
You make it in your mess-tin by the brazier's rosy gleam;
There's sunshine in the heart of me,
Brave Thackeray has trolled of days when he was twenty-one,
Ho! we were strong, we were swift, we were brave.
No, Bill, I'm not a-spooning out no patriotic tosh
It isn't the foe that we fear;
As I was saying . . . (No, thank you; I never take cream with my tea;
They brought the mighty chief to town;
Three score and ten, the psalmist saith,
When the boys come out from Lac Labiche in the lure of the early Spring,
At dawn of day the white land lay all gruesome-like and grim,
The poppies gleamed like bloody pools through cotton-woolly mist;
I'm gatherin' flowers by the wayside to lay on the grave of Bill;
I wonder 'oo and wot 'e was,
It's easy to fight when everything's right,
It's a mighty good world, so it is, dear lass,
In the little Crimson Manual it's written plain and clear
When a girl's sixteen, and as poor as she's pretty,
Say! You've struck a heap of trouble -
I just think that dreams are best,
So easy 'tis to make a rhyme,
Since all that is was ever bound to be;
Up into the sky I stare;
A pistol-shot rings round and round the world:
Hurrah! I'm off to Finistère, to Finistère, to Finistère;
(The Wounded Canadian Speaks)
I've tinkered at my bits of rhymes
When your marrer bone seems 'oller,
I dreamed I saw three demi-gods who in a cafe sat,
I'm goin' 'ome to Blighty - ain't I glad to 'ave the chance!
Another day of toil and strife,
O dear little cabin, I've loved you so long,
And so when he reached my bed
If you're up against a bruiser and you're getting knocked about -
And when I come to the dim trail-end,
"I'm taking pen in hand this night, and hard it is for me;
"I'm going, Billy, old fellow. Hist, lad! Don't make any noise.
Just Home and Love! the words are small
I have some friends, some worthy friends,
I'm scared of it all, God's truth! so I am;
If you had a friend strong, simple, true,
Heigh ho! to sleep I vainly try;
There! my pipe is out. Let me light it again and consider. I have no illusions about myself. I am not fool enough to think I am a poet, but I have a knack of rhyme and I love to make verses. Mine is a tootling, tin-whistle music. Humbly and afar I fo
Oh ye whose hearts are resonant, and ring to War's romance,
Never knew Jim, did you? Our boy Jim?
Ten sous. . . . I think one can sing best of poverty when one is holding it at arm's length. I'm sure that when I wrote these lines, fortune had for a moment tweaked me by the nose. To-night, however, I am truly down to ten sous. It is for that I hav
Just think! some night the stars will gleam
Now Kelly was no fighter;
My job is done; my rhymes are ranked and ready,
We talked of yesteryears, of trails and treasure,
You who have lived in the Land,
We've finished up the filthy war;
Chez Moi, Montparnasse,
I saw three wounded of the war:
Come out, O Little Moccasins, and frolic on the snow!
"Black is the sky, but the land is white -
Of course you've heard of the Nancy Lee, and how she sailed away
Men of the High North, the wild sky is blazing;
"There's something in your face, Michael, I've seen it all the day;
There's a drip of honeysuckle in the deep green lane;
Missis Moriarty called last week, and says she to me, says she:
A child saw in the morning skies
O'er the dark pines she sees the silver moon,
When first I left Blighty they gave me a bay'nit
Before I drink myself to death,
A Belgian Priest-Soldier Speaks: -
The man above was a murderer, the man below was a thief;
Day after day behold me plying
I've got a little job on 'and, the time is drawin' nigh;
I haled me a woman from the street,
It's slim and trim and bound in blue;
I've been sittin' starin', starin' at 'is muddy pair of boots,
To rest my fagged brain now and then,
We was in a crump-'ole, 'im and me;
It's cruel cold on the water-front, silent and dark and drear;
Scarcely do I scribble that last line on the back of an old envelope when a voice hails me. It is a fellow free-lance, a short-story man called MacBean. He is having a feast of Marennes and he asks me to join him.
Oh, it is good to drink and sup,
He dreamed away his hours in school;
Oh, it's pleasant sitting here,
O God, take the sun from the sky!
We brought him in from between the lines: we'd better have let him lie;
"Flowers, only flowers - bring me dainty posies,
All day long when the shells sail over
For oh, when the war will be over
Blind Peter Piper used to play
Alas! upon some starry height,
'Twas a year ago and the moon was bright
Jerry MacMullen, the millionaire,
One said: Thy life is thine to make or mar,
I sing no idle songs of dalliance days,
He hurried away, young heart of joy, under our Devon sky!
O Teddy Bear! with your head awry
He's yonder, on the terrace of the Cafe de la Paix,
What are you doing here, Tom Thorne, on the white top-knot o' the world,
Her little head just topped the window-sill;
When Chewed-ear Jenkins got hitched up to Guinneyveer McGee,
I took a contract to bury the body of blasphemous Bill MacKie,
He was an old prospector with a vision bleared and dim.
Now wouldn't you expect to find a man an awful crank
This is the tale that was told to me by the man with the crystal eye,
"The North has got him." - Yukonism.
You want me to tell you a story, a yarn of the firin' line,
There was Claw-fingered Kitty and Windy Ike living the life of shame,
'Twas up in a land long famed for gold, where women were far and rare,
One of the Down and Out - that's me. Stare at me well, ay, stare!
Humping it here in the dug-out,
"The aristocratic ne'er-do-well in Canada frequently finds his way into the ranks of the Royal North-West Mounted Police." - Extract.
She lay like a saint on her copper couch;
What was the blackest sight to me
Up in my garret bleak and bare
Because my overcoat's in pawn,
I'm crawlin' out in the mangolds to bury wot's left o' Joe -
Oh, one gets used to everything!
(France, August first, 1914)
Have you gazed on naked grandeur where there's nothing else to gaze on,
As I sat by my baby's bed
"How good God is to me," he said;
. . . So I walked among the willows very quietly all night;
The clover was in blossom, an' the year was at the June,
'Ave you seen Bill's mug in the Noos to-day?
There are strange things done in the midnight sun
We're taking Marie Toro to her home in Père-La-Chaise;
The lone man gazed and gazed upon his gold,
I'm dead.
"But it isn't playing the game," he said,
Smith, great writer of stories, drank; found it immortalised his pen;
Now Eddie Malone got a swell grammyfone to draw all the trade to his store;
"Hae ye heard whit ma auld mither's postit tae me?
There was a woman, and she was wise; woefully wise was she;
Moko, the Educated Ape is here,
There where the mighty mountains bare their fangs unto the moon;
Oh you who have daring deeds to tell!
It's good the great green earth to roam,
The Junior God looked from his place
The lonely sunsets flare forlorn
Have ever you heard of the Land of Beyond,
From wrath-red dawn to wrath-red dawn,
This is the law of the Yukon, and ever she makes it plain:
(The Dark Side)
When a man gits on his uppers in a hard-pan sort of town,
* The French "Tommy".
In the moonless, misty night, with my little pipe alight,
Ye who know the Lone Trail fain would follow it,
"And when I come to die," he said,
This is the pay-day up at the mines, when the bearded brutes come down;
Jack would laugh an' joke all day;
There's a cry from out the Loneliness - Oh, listen, Honey, listen!
Oh the wife she tried to tell me that 'twas nothing but the thrumming
He's the man from Eldorado, and he's just arrived in town,
The Dreamer visioned Life as it might be,
The cruel war was over - oh, the triumph was so sweet!
There's a race of men that don't fit in,
There will be a singing in your heart,
I know a mountain thrilling to the stars,
I look into the aching womb of night;
On the ragged edge of the world I'll roam,
Me and Ed and a stretcher
"Gather around me, children dear;
A wild and woeful race he ran
This is the song of the parson's son, as he squats in his shack alone,
My glass is filled, my pipe is lit,
A pencil, sir; a penny - won't you buy?
"Sow your wild oats in your youth," so we're always told;
Oh, have you forgotten those afternoons
She was a Philistine spick and span,
We sleep in the sleep of ages, the bleak, barbarian pines;
I strolled up old Bonanza, where I staked in ninety-eight,
I sought Him on the purple seas,
When you're lost in the Wild, and you're scared as a child,
It's fine to have a blow-out in a fancy restaurant,
Tramp, tramp, the grim road, the road from Mons to Wipers
To-day within a grog-shop near
They turned him loose; he bowed his head,
The same old sprint in the morning, boys, to the same old din and smut;
There's a four-pronged buck a-swinging in the shadow of my cabin,
We couldn't sit and study for the law;
My Father Christmas passed away
When from my fumbling hand the tired pen falls,
"And now, blow out your candle, lad, and get to bed. See, the dawn is in the sky. Open your window and let its freshness rouge your cheek.
A bunch of the boys were whooping it up in the Malamute saloon;
Out of the night a crash,
"Deny your God!" they ringed me with their spears;
(With apologies to the singer of the "Song of the Banjo".)
What do they matter, our headlong hates, when we take the toll of our Dead?
Give me the scorn of the stars and a peak defiant;
When the long, long day is over, and the Big Boss gives me my pay,
I wanted the gold, and I sought it;
The Spirit of the Unborn Babe peered through the window-pane,
The cow-moose comes to water, and the beaver's overbold,
My stretcher is one scarlet stain,
I will not wash my face;
That Barret, the painter of pictures, what feeling for color he had!
The waves have a story to tell me,
Can you recall, dear comrade, when we tramped God's land together,
It's mighty lonesome-like and drear.
Says Bauldy MacGreegor frae Gleska tae Hecky MacCrimmon frae Skye:
There were two brothers, John and James,
Sez I: My Country calls? Well, let it call.
(He speaks.)
The Wanderlust has lured me to the seven lonely seas,
She risked her all, they told me, bravely sinking
You may talk o' your lutes and your dulcimers fine,
"Tell Annie I'll be home in time
I sought the trails of South and North,
An angel was tired of heaven, as he lounged in the golden street;
I wish that I could understand
The sky is like an envelope,
Be honest, kindly, simple, true;
If you leave the gloom of London and you seek a glowing land,
Oh, weren't they the fine boys! You never saw the beat of them,
The lonely sunsets flare forlorn
There lies the trail to Sunnydale,
My rhymes are rough, and often in my rhyming
POPPIES, you try to tell me, glowing there in the wheat;
I know a garden where the lilies gleam,
What d'ye think, lad; what d'ye think,
"Hullo, young Jones! with your tie so gay
Light up your pipe again, old chum, and sit awhile with me;
Is it not strange? A year ago to-day,
"Where are you going, Young Fellow My Lad,