Anyone like Robert W. Service?

Reply Fri 29 Jun, 2007 04:38 pm
Anyone enjoy the poetry of Robert W. Service. Aside from his two poems that he's famous for, are any of his other poems enjoyed by anyone?
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Reply Fri 29 Jun, 2007 05:17 pm
Foofie, welcome to A2K. I'm afraid that I have only read the two to which you refer, but I found that the man was far more prolific than I had imagined. Thanks for the reminder.

Here is a list of the poems that he has written, and I am impressed.

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Reply Fri 29 Jun, 2007 06:02 pm
I have liked him and his work for a long time. He published about five volumes of poetry in the U.S. & Canada (his home) during the early 20th century. Three were generally set in Alaska during the gold rush (and I suppose the two poems you were referring to were "The Shooting of Dan McGrew" and "The Cremation of Sam McGee"). Two of Service's later volumes (Ballads of a Bohemian and I forget the other one) were set in Paris just before and during WWI, where he was living at the time (and driving an ambulance during the war). Different subject matter, but similar themes. All very good work in my view.

Here is one of My favorites;

The Men That Don't Fit In

There's a race of men that don't fit in,
A race that can't stay still;
So they break the hearts of kith and kin,
And they roam the world at will.
They range the field and they rove the flood,
And they climb the mountain's crest;
Theirs is the curse of the gypsy blood,
And they don't know how to rest.

If they just went straight they might go far;
They are strong and brave and true;
But they're always tired of the things that are,
And they want the strange and new.
They say: "Could I find my proper groove,
What a deep mark I would make!"
So they chop and change, and each fresh move
Is only a fresh mistake.

And each forgets, as he strips and runs
With a brilliant, fitful pace,
It's the steady, quiet, plodding ones
Who win in the lifelong race.
And each forgets that his youth has fled,
Forgets that his prime is past,
Till he stands one day, with a hope that's dead,
In the glare of the truth at last.

He has failed, he has failed; he has missed his chance;
He has just done things by half.
Life's been a jolly good joke on him,
And now is the time to laugh.
Ha, ha! He is one of the Legion Lost;
He was never meant to win;
He's a rolling stone, and it's bred in the bone;
He's a man who won't fit in.
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Reply Sat 30 Jun, 2007 06:48 am
Thank you for the website link and also the poem The Men That Don't Fit In.
I've seen two soft cover (trade paperback) editions printed years ago. They are probably reprinted editions of his earlier compendiums.
I thought he was born in Scotland?
After WWI I thought he became a pacifist.
I am trying to memorize the Cremation of Sam McGee. I am not making much headway. I consider the effort brain exercise.
I was taking a course on Emily Dickenson and her poetry needs to be explained to me. I believe, Robert W. Service is easy to understand by comparison. But, Dickenson seems to be the poet that has caught the public's attention, at least in the U.S.?
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Reply Sat 30 Jun, 2007 06:48 am
I've always been partial to "The Ballad of Salvation Bill" which ends:

So now I'm called Salvation Bill; I teach the Living Law,
And Bally-hoo the Bible with the best;
And if a guy won't listen - why, I sock him on the jaw,
And preach the Gospel sitting on his chest.

--- Robert Service

Full text here:


The quatrain I quoted is very useful for countering the cocksure intolerance of adolescents.
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Reply Sat 30 Jun, 2007 07:08 am
Foofie, I love the Belle of Amherst. If you will supply us with her poems whose explication illudes you, we will try to help.
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Reply Sat 30 Jun, 2007 07:40 am
Thank you for the offer to make Dickenson understandable. I take the courses (another one this fall), but I think of it like algebra; something to solve, I'm not really enjoying it, other than solving each poem's meaning. I find her interesting in that in a time when women had such prescribed roles in society, she was a a veritable recluse and lived in her own mental world, so to speak.
Another poet that seems perenially popular is Alan Ginsburg. He just seems too anti-establishment for me. Yet, he has his following. However, an old friend of his was Lawrence Ferlinghetti who is known, but I don't think is as quite well known. I like his poetry more. It's all subjective, naturally.
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Stray Cat
Reply Thu 5 Jul, 2007 01:34 pm
I remember my Dad reading "Fleurette" to me when I was a kid. Is that one of the two famous poems that you refer to? (I think The Dangerous Dan McGrew must be the other?)

Anyway, I really just stopped in to say I like your username. Foofie. Heh. Smile
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