Another ‘word master’ that I am very fond of is Robert Service. You might ask, ‘Wasn’t he the guy that wrote some poem we heard in high school about ‘The Shooting of Dan McGrew?’ Oh, grasshopper, that’s just the tip of his brilliant iceberg.
Here’s a tidbit to refresh your memory of those days long past (for some of us)
‘A bunch of the boys were whooping it up in the Malamute saloon;
The kid that handles the music-box was hitting a jag-time tune;
Back of the bar, in a solo game, sat Dangerous Dan McGrew, And watching his luck was his light-o’-love, the lady that’s known as Lou.
When out of the night, which was fifty below, and into the din and the glare,
There stumbled a miner fresh from the creeks, dog-dirty, and loaded for bear.
He looked like a man with a foot in the grave and scarcely the strength of a louse,
Yet he tilted a poke of dust on the bar, and he called for drinks for the house. There was none could place the stranger’s face, though we search ourselves for a clue; But we drank his health, and the last to drink was Dangerous Dan McGrew.’……
(The Best of Robert Service**Dodd, Mead & Co. Publishers)
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know you don’t ever read poetry but if you have a spark of ‘the Wild’ in you, (and I know that you do) read this! You will not be sorry. It is food for the wildness in your soul.
‘Were you ever out in the Great Alone, when the moon was awful clear’…. ..And the icy mountains hemmed you in with a silence you most could hear; With only the howl of a timber wolf, and you camped there in the cold, A half-dead thing in the stark, dead world, clean mad for the muck called gold; While high overhead, green, yellow, and red, the North Lights swept in bars?- Then you’ve a hunch what the music meant…hunger and night and the stars.
‘Can you remember your huskies all going, barking with joy and their brushes in air; ‘You in your parka, glad-eyed and glowing, Monarch, your subjects the wolf and the bear. Monarch, your kingdom unravished and gleaming; Mountains your throne, and a river your car; Crash of a bull moose to rouse you from dreaming; Forest your couch, and your candle a star. You who this faint day the High North is luring unto her vastness, taintlessly sweet; You who are steel-braced, straight-lipped, enduring, Dreadless in danger and dire in defeat; Honor the High North ever and ever, Whether she crown you, or whether she slay; Suffer her fury, cherish and love her– He who would rule he must learn to obey.’ (Robert Service)~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
In my short play, “The Bard of the Yukon” I have attempted to introduce Robert Service to young people. A play perfect for middle-school and high-school class rooms it is set in the bedroom of three teenage sisters as one prepares to run away to Alaska and follow in Robert Service’s footsteps. I’ll leave you with this:
THE CALL OF THE WILD (excerpt) by Robert Service
‘Have you broken trail on snowshoes? Mushed your huskies up the river, Dared the unknown, led the way, and clutched the prize? Have you marked the map’s void spaces, mingled with the mongrel races, Felt the savage strength of brute in every thew? And though grim as hell the worst is, can you round it off with curses? Then hearken to the Wild—it’s wanting you.
Have you suffered, starved and triumphed, groveled down, yet grasped at glory, Grown bigger in the bigness of the whole? “Done things” just for the doing, letting babblers tell the story, Seeing through the nice veneer the naked soul? Have you seen God in His splendors, heard the text that nature renders? The simple things, the true things, the silent men who do things— Then listen to the Wild—it’s calling you.’
Service was born, raised and educated on Scotland. At age 21, dreaming about a cowboy life, Service left Scotland and moved to Canada traveling by rail from Montreal to British Columbia. He lived in Victoria, BC, and spent his first few years traveling up and down the west coast. He was a banker by trade and went to work in Victoria and later (around 1904) was stationed in White Horse, Yukon.
Service understood the difficulties of living in the north and he very much appreciated the beauty of the land. Soon Robert Service was writing poetry about the north and sent a package of his poems to a publisher. One of the poems Service included was to become one of his most famous, The Cremation of Sam McGee. His book of poetry was enormously successful and he became wealthy almost overnight. He kept his bank job and a year later was transferred to Dawson City making the trip by dog sleigh. (photo of him outside his cabin in White Horse.)
During World War I, Robert Service was a war correspondent for the Toronto Star. In 1913, Service arrived in Paris, where he would live for the next 15 years. He settled in the Latin Quarter, posing as a painter. He continued to write poetry and novels and amassed wealth. He often pretended to be poor. Robert Service was considered the most read poet of the 20th century.
Start your month off right!! DON’T MISS UPCOMING BLOGS. INTERVIEWS with other best-selling AUTHORS! A NEW SERIES, “The Writer’s Corner”
I have had a wonderful response from other authors and will feature an interview once a month . I have invited such luminaries as: Ann Purser, Susan Elia MacNeal, Maya Angelou, Mark Childress, Rhys Bowen, Dean Koontz, Sheryl Woods, Jo-Ann Mapson, Jeffrey Deaver, Elizabeth Gilbert, Amber Winckler, Robert McCammon, Sue Grafton, Walter Mosley, Nora Roberts, and many others.
So come along with me; we shall sneak into these writers’ special places, be a fly on the wall and watch them create! Mark Childress is our April author. Robert McCammon is scheduled for May. Caroline Leavitt is June‘s author. July features Rhys Bowen. Sue Grafton is August’s author and September will feature Tasha Alexander.
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