Speaking of Adventure: Two Poems by Robert Service
Robert Service was an adventurer and a renaissance man born in 1874. Among his trades, he was a poet. His wild and rhythmic poetry is absolutely captivating.
I happened on this jewel in the back room of a pizza joint, in a box full of books marked 50 cents. Score!
Here’s a bit of his poem, “The Heart of the Sourdough:”
(hold fast for the delicious things wafting up from the words in the second stanza- you can practically smell the bacon and beans and the crackle of campfire!)
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 mighty mountains bare their fangs unto the moon
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.
Isn’t it wonderful? It’s a long shot from the very first poem of his career (which is still wonderful), written when he was six years old:
God bless the cakes and bless the jam;
Bless the cheese and the cold boiled ham:
Bless the scones Aunt Jeannie makes,
And save us all from bellyaches. Amen.
You hungry yet?