The Spell of the Yukon and Other Poems

The Spell of the Yukon and Other Poems

by Robert Service


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The Spell of the Yukon and Other Poems by Robert Service

"There are strange things done in the midnight sun," declared Robert Service as he related the fulfillment of a dying prospector's request. "The Cremation of Sam McGee" was based on one of many peculiar tales he heard upon his 1904 arrival in the Canadian frontier town of Whitehorse. Less than a decade after the Klondike gold rush, many natives and transplants remained to tell stories of the boom towns that sprang up with the sudden influx of miners, gamblers, barflies, and other fortune-seekers. Service's compelling verses — populated by One-Eyed Mike, Dangerous Dan McGrew, and other colorful characters — recapture the era's venturesome spirit and vitality.
In this, his best-remembered work, the "common man's poet" and "Canadian Kipling" presents thirty-four verses that celebrate the rugged natural beauty of the frozen North and the warm humanity of its denizens. Verses include "The Shooting of Dan McGrew" ("A bunch of the boys were whooping it up in the Malamute saloon"), "The Heart of the Sourdough" ("There where the mighty mountains bare their fangs unto the moon"), and "The Call of the Wild" (Have you gazed on naked grandeur where there's nothing else to gaze on"). Generations have fallen under the spell of these poems, which continue to enchant readers of all ages.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780486476896
Publisher: Dover Publications
Publication date: 07/17/2012
Pages: 128
Sales rank: 352,834
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.20(d)

About the Author

Known as the "Canadian Kipling," Robert Service (1877-1958) is also frequently compared to Jack London because of their shared admiration for the Yukon wilderness. Service's poetry — including "The Shooting of Dan McGrew" and "The Cremation of Sam McGee" — achieved immediate and lasting worldwide fame.

Read an Excerpt



Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 2012 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-31073-2



    The lonely sunsets flare forlorn
    Down valleys dreadly desolate;
    The lordly mountains soar in scorn
    As still as death, as stern as fate.

    The lonely sunsets flame and die;
    The giant valleys gulp the night;
    The monster mountains scrape the sky,
    Where eager stars are diamond-bright.

    So gaunt against the gibbous moon,
    Piercing the silence velvet-piled,
    A lone wolf howls his ancient rune —
    The fell arch-spirit of the Wild.

    O outcast land! O leper land!
    Let the lone wolf-cry all express
    The hate insensate of thy hand,
    Thy heart's abysmal loneliness.


    I wanted the gold, and I sought it;
    I scrabbled and mucked like a slave.
    Was it famine or scurvy — I fought it;
    I hurled my youth into a grave.
    I wanted the gold, and I got it —
    Came out with a fortune last fall, —
    Yet somehow life's not what I thought it,
    And somehow the gold isn't all.

    No! There's the land. (Have you seen it?)
    It's the cussedest land that I know,
    From the big, dizzy mountains that screen it
    To the deep, deathlike valleys below.
    Some say God was tired when He made it;
    Some say it's a fine land to shun;
    Maybe; but there's some as would trade it
    For no land on earth — and I'm one.

    You come to get rich (damned good reason);
    You feel like an exile at first;
    You hate it like hell for a season,
    And then you are worse than the worst.
    It grips you like some kinds of sinning;
    It twists you from foe to a friend;
    It seems it's been since the beginning;
    It seems it will be to the end.

    I've stood in some mighty-mouthed hollow
    That's plumb-full of hush to the brim;
    I've watched the big, husky sun wallow
    In crimson and gold, and grow dim,
    Till the moon set the pearly peaks gleaming,
    And the stars tumbled out, neck and crop;
    And I've thought that I surely was dreaming,
    With the peace o' the world piled on top.

    The summer — no sweeter was ever;
    The sunshiny woods all athrill;
    The grayling aleap in the river,
    The bighorn asleep on the hill.
    The strong life that never knows harness;
    The wilds where the caribou call;
    The freshness, the freedom, the farness —
    O God! how I'm stuck on it all.

    The winter! the brightness that blinds you,
    The white land locked tight as a drum,
    The cold fear that follows and finds you,
    The silence that bludgeons you dumb.
    The snows that are older than history,
    The woods where the weird shadows slant;
    The stillness, the moonlight, the mystery,
    I've bade 'em good-by — but I can't.

    There's a land where the mountains are nameless,
    And the rivers all run God knows where;
    There are lives that are erring and aimless,
    And deaths that just hang by a hair;
    There are hardships that nobody reckons;
    There are valleys unpeopled and still;
    There's a land — oh, it beckons and beckons,
    And I want to go back — and I will.

    They're making my money diminish;
    I'm sick of the taste of champagne.
    Thank God! when I'm skinned to a finish
    I'll pike to the Yukon again.
    I'll fight — and you bet it's no sham-fight;
    It's hell! — but I've been there before;
    And it's better than this by a damsite —
    So me for the Yukon once more.

    There's gold, and it's haunting and haunting;
    It's luring me on as of old;
    Yet it isn't the gold that I'm wanting
    So much as just finding the gold.
    It's the great, big, broad land 'way up yonder,
    It's the forests where silence has lease;
    It's the beauty that thrills me with wonder,
    It's the stillness that fills me with peace.


    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 an-
    other 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.


    The waves have a story to tell me,
    As I lie on the lonely beach;
    Chanting aloft in the pine-tops,
    The wind has a lesson to teach;
    But the stars sing an anthem of glory
    I cannot put into speech.

    The waves tell of ocean spaces,
    Of hearts that are wild and brave,
    Of populous city places,
    Of desolate shores they lave,
    Of men who sally in quest of gold
    To sink in an ocean grave.

    The wind is a mighty roamer;
    He bids me keep me free,
    Clean from the taint of the gold-lust,
    Hardy and pure as he;
    Cling with my love to nature,
    As a child to the mother-knee.

    But the stars throng out in their glory,
    And they sing of the God in man;
    They sing of the Mighty Master,
    Of the loom his fingers span,
    Where a star or a soul is a part of the whole,
    And weft in the wondrous plan.

    Here by the camp-fire's flicker,
    Deep in my blanket curled,
    I long for the peace of the pine-gloom,
    When the scroll of the Lord is unfurled,
    And the wind and the wave are silent,
    And world is singing to world.


    This is the law of the Yukon, and ever she
    makes it plain:
    "Send not your foolish and feeble; send me
    your strong and your sane —
    Strong for the red rage of battle; sane, for I
    harry them sore;
    Send me men girt for the combat, men who are
    grit to the core;
    Swift as the panther in triumph, fierce as the
    bear in defeat,
    Sired of a bulldog parent, steeled in the furnace heat.
    Send me the best of your breeding, lend me your
    chosen ones;
    Them will I take to my bosom, them will I call
    my sons;
    Them will I gild with my treasure, them will I
    glut with my meat;
    But the others — the misfits, the failures — I
    trample under my feet.
    Dissolute, damned and despairful, crippled and
    palsied and slain,
    Ye would send me the spawn of your gutters —
    Go! take back your spawn again.

    " Wild and wide are my borders, stern as death
    is my sway;
    From my ruthless throne I have ruled alone for
    a million years and a day;
    Hugging my mighty treasure, waiting for man
    to come,
    Till he swept like a turbid torrent, and after
    him swept — the scum.
    The pallid pimp of the dead-line, the enervate
    of the pen,
    One by one I weeded them out, for all that I
    sought was — Men.
    One by one I dismayed them, frighting them
    sore with my glooms;
    One by one I betrayed them unto my manifold

    Drowned them like rats in my rivers, starved
    them like curs on my plains,
    Rotted the flesh that was left them, poisoned
    the blood in their veins;
    Burst with my winter upon them, searing for-
    ever their sight,
    Lashed them with fungus-white faces, whimpering
    wild in the night;

    Staggering blind through the storm-whirl,
    stumbling mad through the snow,
    Frozen stiff in the ice-pack, brittle and bent like
    a bow;
    Featureless, formless, forsaken, scented by
    wolves in their flight,
    Left for the wind to make music through ribs
    that are glittering white;
    Gnawing the black crust of failure, searching
    the pit of despair,
    Crooking the toe in the trigger, trying to patter
    a prayer;
    Going outside with an escort, raving with lips
    all afoam,

    Writing a cheque for a million, driveling feebly
    of home;
    Lost like a louse in the burning ... or else
    in the tented town
    Seeking a drunkard's solace, sinking and sink-
    ing down;
    Steeped in the slime at the bottom, dead to a
    decent world,
    Lost 'mid the human flotsam, far on the fron-
    tier hurled;
    In the camp at the bend of the river, with its
    dozen saloons aglare,
    Its gambling dens ariot, its gramophones all ablare;
    Crimped with the crimes of a city, sin-ridden
    and bridled with lies,
    In the hush of my mountained vastness, in the
    flush of my midnight skies.
    Plague-spots, yet tools of my purpose, so nathe-
    less I suffer them thrive,
    Crushing my Weak in their clutches, that only
    my Strong may survive.

    "But the others, the men of my mettle, the men
    who would 'stablish my fame
    Unto its ultimate issue, winning me honor, not
    Searching my uttermost valleys, fighting each
    step as they go,
    Shooting the wrath of my rapids, scaling my
    ramparts of snow;
    Ripping the guts of my mountains, looting the
    beds of my creeks,
    Them will I take to my bosom, and speak as a
    mother speaks.
    I am the land that listens, I am the land that
    Steeped in eternal beauty, crystalline waters and
    Long have I waited lonely, shunned as a thing
    Monstrous, moody, pathetic, the last of the
    lands and the first;
    Visioning camp-fires at twilight, sad with a long-
    ing forlorn,
    Feeling my womb o'er-pregnant with the seed
    of cities unborn.
    Wild and wide are my borders, stern as death
    is my sway,
    And I wait for the men who will win me — and
    I will not be won in a day;
    And I will not be won by weaklings, subtle,
    suave and mild,
    But by men with the hearts of vikings, and the
    simple faith of a child;
    Desperate, strong and resistless, unthrottled by
    fear or defeat,
    Them will I gild with my treasure, them will I
    glut with my meat.

    "Lofty I stand from each sister land, patient
    and wearily wise,
    With the weight of a world of sadness in my
    quiet, passionless eyes;
    Dreaming alone of a people, dreaming alone
    of a day,
    When men shall not rape my riches, and curse
    me and go away;
    Making a bawd of my bounty, fouling the hand
    that gave —
    Till I rise in my wrath and I sweep on their
    path and I stamp them into a grave.
    Dreaming of men who will bless me, of women
    esteeming me good,
    Of children born in my borders of radiant
    Of cities leaping to stature, of fame like a flag
    As I pour the tide of my riches in the eager lap
    of the world."

    This is the Law of the Yukon, that only the
    Strong shall thrive;
    That surely the Weak shall perish, and only the
    Fit survive.
    Dissolute, damned and despairful, crippled and
    palsied and slain,
    This is the Will of the Yukon, — Lo, how she
    makes it plain!


Excerpted from THE SPELL OF THE YUKON AND OTHER POEMS by ROBERT SERVICE. Copyright © 2012 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

The Three Voices 2212 Th

The Law of the Yukon 2412 This

The Parson's Son 3112 This is the song of t

The Call o

3612 Have you g

The Lone Trail 4012

The Pines 4312 We

The Lure of Little Voices 4612 There's a c

The Song of the


When the long, long day is over, and the Big Boss gives me m

Grin 5312 If you're u

The Shooting o

5512 A bunch of the

The Cremation of


There are strange things done in the midnight sun11 My Madonn

6812 I haled me a woman from t

Unforgotten 6912 I know a garden where the lilies

The Reckoning 7012 It'


7212 One

The Men that Do

7512 There's a race of men th


7712 O'er the dark pines she sees th

8112 There's

The Low-Down Whi

8512 This is the pay

The Little Old Log Cabin 88

When a man gets on his uppers in a hard-pan sort of town11 The

9112 If you

The March of the

9512 The cruel war was ov

"Fighting Mac" 9912

The Woman and the Angel 10412 An ang

The Rhyme of the Restless

10712 We could

New Year's Eve

It's cruel cold on the wa

Comfort 11512 Say! You'v

The Harpy

11712 There was a woman, and she was w

Premonition 12212 'Twas a year ago, and the moon was brig

The Tramps

12312 Can you recall, dear comrade, w

L'envoi 12512 You who have lived in the

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The Spell of the Yukon and Other Poems 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I take this book every time I go camping!