Robert W. Service

Found 700 thoughts of Robert W. Service

I remember little of the Yukon or what I wrote there.

Robert W. Service

A promise made is a debt unpaid.

Robert W. Service

Familiarity

Familiarity some claim
Can breed contempt,
So from it let it be your aim
To be exempt.
Let no one exercise his brawn
To slap your back,
Lest he forget your name is John,
And call you Jack.

To those who crash your private pew
Be sour as krout;
Don't let them see the real 'you,'
And bawl you out.
Don't call your Cousin William--Bill,
But formal be.
Have care! Beware and shun famil--
Iarity.

I'm quite polite. My hat I doff
But little say.
I give the crowd the big brush-off,
And go my way.
To common folk I do not freeze,
I am no snob:
But though my name is Robert, please
Don't call me BOB.

Robert W. Service

The Release

To-day within a grog-shop near
I saw a newly captured linnet,
Who beat against his cage in fear,
And fell exhausted every minute;
And when I asked the fellow there
If he to sell the bird were willing,
He told me with a careless air
That I could have it for a shilling.

And so I bought it, cage and all
(Although I went without my dinner),
And where some trees were fairly tall
And houses shrank and smoke was thinner,
The tiny door I open threw,
As down upon the grass I sank me:
Poor little chap! How quick he flew . . .
He didn't even wait to thank me.

Life's like a cage; we beat the bars,
We bruise our breasts, we struggle vainly;
Up to the glory of the stars
We strain with flutterings ungainly.
And then -- God opens wide the door;
Our wondrous wings are arched for flying;
We poise, we part, we sing, we soar . . .
Light, freedom, love. . . . Fools call it -- Dying.

Robert W. Service

Black Moran

The mule-skinner was Bill Jerome, the passengers were three;
Two tinhorns from the dives of Nome, and Father Tim McGee.
And as for sunny Southland bound, through weary woods they sped,
The solitude that ringed them round was silent as the dead.

Then when the trail crooked crazily, the frost-rimed horses reared,
And from behind a fallen tree a grim galoot appeared;
He wore a parki white as snow, a mask as black as soot,
And carelesslike weaved to and fro a gun as if to shoot.

"Stick up yer mitts an' freeze 'em there!" his raucous voice outrang,
And shaving them by just a hair a blazing rod went bang.
The sleigh jerked to a sharp stand-still: "Okay," drawled Bill Jerome,
"Could be, this guy who aims to kill is Black Moran from Nome."

"You lousy crooks," the bandit cried; "You're slickly heeled I know;
Come, make it snappy, dump outside your booty in the snow."
The gambling pair went putty pale; they crimped as if with cold.
And heaved upon the icy trail two hefty pokes of gold.

Then softly stepping from the sleigh came Father Tim McGee,
And speaking in his gentle way: :Accept my Cross," said he.
"For other treasures have I none, their guilty gold to swell . . .
Please take this crucifix, my son, and may it serve you well."

The bandit whispered in his ear: "Jeez-crize, you got me wrong.
I wouldn't rob you Father dear - to your Church I belong."
Then swiftly striding to the sleigh he dumped the gold back in,
And hollered: "On your knees and pray, you lousy sons of sin!"

"Praise God," said Father Tim McGee, "he made you restitution,
And if he ever kneels to me I'll give him absolution."
"I'll have you guys to understand," said Driver Bill Jerome,
"The squarest gunman in the land is Black Moran form Nome."

Robert W. Service

Awake To Smile

When I blink sunshine in my eyes
And hail the amber morn,
Before the rosy dew-drop dries
With sparkle on the thorn;
When boughs with robin rapture ring,
And bees hum in the may,--
Then call me young, with heart of Spring,
Though I be grey.

But when no more I know the joy
And urgence of that hour,
As like a happy-hearted boy
I leap to land aflower;
When gusto I no longer feel,
To rouse with glad hooray,--
Then call me old and let me steal
From men away.

Let me awaken with a smile
And go to garden glee,
For there is such a little while
Of living left to me;
But when star-wist I frail away,
Lord, let the hope beguile
That to Ecstatic Light I may
Awake to smile.

Robert W. Service

A Cabbage Patch

Folk ask if I'm alive,
Most think I'm not;
Yet gaily I contrive
To till my plot.
The world its way can go,
I little heed,
So long as I can grow
The grub I need.

For though long overdue,
The years to me,
Have taught a lesson true,
--Humility.
Such better men than I
I've seen pass on;
Their pay-off when they die;
--Oblivion.

And so I mock at fame,
With books unread;
No monument I claim
When I am dead;
Contented as I see
My cottage thatch
That my last goal should be
--A cabbage patch.

Robert W. Service

Regret

It's not for laws I've broken
That bitter tears I've wept,
But solemn vows I've spoken
And promises unkept;
It's not for sins committed
My heart is full of rue,
but gentle acts omitted,
Kind deeds I did not do.

I have outlived the blindness,
The selfishness of youth;
The canker of unkindness,
The cruelty of truth;
The searing hurt of rudeness . . .
By mercies great and small,
I've come to reckon goodness
The greatest gift of all.

Let us be helpful ever
to those who are in need,
And each new day endeavour
To do some gentle deed;
For faults beyond our grieving,
What kindliness atone;
On earth by love achieving
A Heaven of our own.

Robert W. Service

Shiela

When I played my penny whistle on the braes above Lochgyle
The heather bloomed about us, and we heard the peewit call;
As you bent above your knitting something fey was in your smile,
And fine and soft and slow the rain made silver on your shawl.
Your cheeks were pink like painted cheeks, your eyes a pansy blue . . .
My heart was in my playing, but my music was for you.

And now I play he organ in this lordly London town;
I play the lovely organ with a thousand folks in view.
They're wearing silk and satin, but I see a woolen gown,
And my heart's not in my music, for I'm thinking, lass, of you;
When you listened to a barefoot boy, who piped of ancient pain,
And your ragged shawl was pearly in the sweet, shy rain.

I'll play them mighty music - O I'll make them stamp and cheer;
I'll give the best that's in me, but I'll give it all for you.
I'll put my whole heart in it, for I feel that you are near,
Not yonder, sleeping always, where the peat is white with dew.
But I'll never live the rapture of the shepherd boy the while
I trilled for you my whistle on the braes above Lochgyle.

Robert W. Service

My Son

I must not let my boy Dick down,
Knight of the air.
With wings of light he won renown
Then crashed somewhere.
To fly to France from London town
I do not dare.

Oh he was such a simple lad
Who loved the sky;
A modern day Sir Galahad,
No need to die:
Earthbound he might have been so glad,
Yet chose to fly.

I ask from where his courage stemmed?
I've never flown;
Air-travel I have oft condemned,--
Now I'm alone,
Yet somehow hold the bright belief
God gave his brief.

So now I must live up to him
Who won on high
A lustre time will never dim;
Though coward I,
Let me revere till life be done
My hero son.

Robert W. Service

The Lure Of Little Voices

There's a cry from out the loneliness -- oh, listen, Honey, listen!
Do you hear it, do you fear it, you're a-holding of me so?
You're a-sobbing in your sleep, dear, and your lashes, how they glisten --
Do you hear the Little Voices all a-begging me to go?

All a-begging me to leave you. Day and night they're pleading, praying,
On the North-wind, on the West-wind, from the peak and from the plain;
Night and day they never leave me -- do you know what they are saying?
"He was ours before you got him, and we want him once again."

Yes, they're wanting me, they're haunting me, the awful lonely places;
They're whining and they're whimpering as if each had a soul;
They're calling from the wilderness, the vast and God-like spaces,
The stark and sullen solitudes that sentinel the Pole.

They miss my little camp-fires, ever brightly, bravely gleaming
In the womb of desolation, where was never man before;
As comradeless I sought them, lion-hearted, loving, dreaming,
And they hailed me as a comrade, and they loved me evermore.

And now they're all a-crying, and it's no use me denying;
The spell of them is on me and I'm helpless as a child;
My heart is aching, aching, but I hear them, sleeping, waking;
It's the Lure of Little Voices, it's the mandate of the Wild.

I'm afraid to tell you, Honey, I can take no bitter leaving;
But softly in the sleep-time from your love I'll steal away.
Oh, it's cruel, dearie, cruel, and it's God knows how I'm grieving;
But His loneliness is calling, and He knows I must obey.

Robert W. Service

L'Envoi

Only a rhymer, so I am,
Lone in the market place;
I shrink, and no one cares a damn
Though tears corrode my face.
The hollows of my cheeks they track,
Symbolic of vain hope;
My hands are grimed because I lack
The price of soap.

Only a rhymer! How my breeks
Let in the Winter wind;
One of my shoes obscenely leaks,
My coat is safety pinned.
Although my neb drips bead on bead,
No handkerchief have I;
My lips are blue, but none have heed
My songs to buy.

Only a rhymer,--just a chiel
Spewed from the land of Burns,
A wastrel and a ne'er-do-weel,
From whom the public turns.
Alas! It is to late to mend
The error of my ways,
So I will jingle to the end
Of all my days.

Robert W. Service

Hot Digitty Dog

Hot digitty dog! Now, ain't it queer,
I've been abroad for over a year;
Seen a helluva lot since then,
Killed, I reckon, a dozen men;
Six was doubtful, but six was sure,
Three in Normandy, three in the Ruhr.
Four I got with a hand grenade,
Two I shot in a midnight raid:
Oh, I ain't sorry, except perhaps
To think that my jerries wasn't japs.

Hot digitty dog! Now ain't it tough;
I oughta be handed hero stuff -
Bands and banquets, and flags and flowers,
Speeches, peaches, confetti showers;
"Welcome back to the old home town,
Colour Sargent Josephus Brown.
Fought like a tiger, one of our best,
Medals and ribands on his chest.
cheers for a warrior, fresh from the fight . . ."
Sure I'd 'a got 'em - - had I been white.

Hot digitty dog! It's jist too bad,
Gittin' home an' nobody gald;
Sneakin' into the Owl Drug Store
Nobody knowin' me any more;
Admirin' my uniform fine and fit -
Say, I've certainly changed a bit
From the lanky lad who used to croon
To a battered banjo in Shay's Saloon;
From the no-good nigger who runned away
After stickin' his knife into ol' man Shay.

They's a lynched me, for he was white,
But he raped my sister one Sunday night;
So I did what a proper man should do,
And I sunk his body deep in the slough.
Oh, he taunted me to my dark disgrace,
Called me a nigger, spat in my face;
So I buried my jack-knife in his heart,
Laughin' to see the hot blood start;
Laughin' still, though it's long ago,
And nobody's ever a-gonna know.

Nobody's ever a-gonna tell
How Ol' Man Shay went straight to hell;
nobody's gonna make me confess -
And what is a killin' more or less.
My skin may be black, but by Christ! I fight;
I've slain a dozen, and each was white,
And none of 'em ever did me no harm,
And my conscience is clear - I've no alarm;
So I'll go where I sank Ol' Man Shay in the bog,
And spit in the water . . . Hot digitty dog!

Robert W. Service

The Song Of The Mouth-Organ

(With apologies to the singer of the "Song of the Banjo".)


I'm a homely little bit of tin and bone;
I'm beloved by the Legion of the Lost;
I haven't got a "vox humana" tone,
And a dime or two will satisfy my cost.
I don't attempt your high-falutin' flights;
I am more or less uncertain on the key;
But I tell you, boys, there's lots and lots of nights
When you've taken mighty comfort out of me.

I weigh an ounce or two, and I'm so small
You can pack me in the pocket of your vest;
And when at night so wearily you crawl
Into your bunk and stretch your limbs to rest,
You take me out and play me soft and low,
The simple songs that trouble your heartstrings;
The tunes you used to fancy long ago,
Before you made a rotten mess of things.

Then a dreamy look will come into your eyes,
And you break off in the middle of a note;
And then, with just the dreariest of sighs,
You drop me in the pocket of your coat.
But somehow I have bucked you up a bit;
And, as you turn around and face the wall,
You don't feel quite so spineless and unfit--
You're not so bad a fellow after all.

Do you recollect the bitter Arctic night;
Your camp beside the canyon on the trail;
Your tent a tiny square of orange light;
The moon above consumptive-like and pale;
Your supper cooked, your little stove aglow;
You tired, but snug and happy as a child?
Then 'twas "Turkey in the Straw" till your lips were nearly raw,
And you hurled your bold defiance at the Wild.

Do you recollect the flashing, lashing pain;
The gulf of humid blackness overhead;
The lightning making rapiers of the rain;
The cattle-horns like candles of the dead
You sitting on your bronco there alone,
In your slicker, saddle-sore and sick with cold?
Do you think the silent herd did not hear "The Mocking Bird",
Or relish "Silver Threads among the Gold"?

Do you recollect the wild Magellan coast;
The head-winds and the icy, roaring seas;
The nights you thought that everything was lost;
The days you toiled in water to your knees;
The frozen ratlines shrieking in the gale;
The hissing steeps and gulfs of livid foam:
When you cheered your messmates nine with "Ben Bolt" and "Clementine",
And "Dixie Land" and "Seeing Nellie Home"?

Let the jammy banjo voice the Younger Son,
Who waits for his remittance to arrive;
I represent the grimy, gritty one,
Who sweats his bones to keep himself alive;
Who's up against the real thing from his birth;
Whose heritage is hard and bitter toil;
I voice the weary, smeary ones of earth,
The helots of the sea and of the soil.

I'm the Steinway of strange mischief and mischance;
I'm the Stradivarius of blank defeat;
In the down-world, when the devil leads the dance,
I am simply and symbolically meet;
I'm the irrepressive spirit of mankind;
I'm the small boy playing knuckle down with Death;
At the end of all things known, where God's rubbish-heap is thrown,
I shrill impudent triumph at a breath.

I'm a humble little bit of tin and horn;
I'm a byword, I'm a plaything, I'm a jest;
The virtuoso looks on me with scorn;
But there's times when I am better than the best.
Ask the stoker and the sailor of the sea;
Ask the mucker and the hewer of the pine;
Ask the herder of the plain, ask the gleaner of the grain--
There's a lowly, loving kingdom--and it's mine.

Robert W. Service

Oh, It Is Good

Oh, it is good to drink and sup,
And then beside the kindly fire
To smoke and heap the faggots up,
And rest and dream to heart's desire.

Oh, it is good to ride and run,
To roam the greenwood wild and free;
To hunt, to idle in the sun,
To leap into the laughing sea.

Oh, it is good with hand and brain
To gladly till the chosen soil,
And after honest sweat and strain
To see the harvest of one's toil.

Oh, it is good afar to roam,
And seek adventure in strange lands;
Yet oh, so good the coming home,
The velvet love of little hands.

So much is good. . . . We thank Thee, God,
For all the tokens Thou hast given,
That here on earth our feet have trod
Thy little shining trails of Heaven.

Robert W. Service

Negress In Notre Dame

The aged Queen who passed away
Had sixty servants, so they say;
Twice sixty hands her shoes to tie:
Two soapy ones have I.

The old Queen had of beds a score;
A cot have I and ask no more.
For when the last is said and done
One can but die in one.

The old Queen rightly thought that she
Was better than the likes o' me;
And yet I'm glad despite her grace
I am not in her place.

The old Queen's gone and I am here,
To eat my tripe and drink my beer,
Athinkin' as I wash my clothes:
We must have monarchs, I suppose . . .
Well, well,--'Taint no skin off my nose!

Robert W. Service

The Land Of Beyond

Have ever you heard of the Land of Beyond,
That dreams at the gates of the day?
Alluring it lies at the skirts of the skies,
And ever so far away;
Alluring it calls: O ye the yoke galls,
And ye of the trail overfond,
With saddle and pack, by paddle and track,
Let's go to the Land of Beyond!

Have ever you stood where the silences brood,
And vast the horizons begin,
At the dawn of the day to behold far away
The goal you would strive for and win?
Yet ah! in the night when you gain to the height,
With the vast pool of heaven star-spawned,
Afar and agleam, like a valley of dream,
Still mocks you a Land of Beyond.

Thank God! there is always a Land of Beyond
For us who are true to the trail;
A vision to seek, a beckoning peak,
A farness that never will fail;
A pride in our soul that mocks at a goal,
A manhood that irks at a bond,
And try how we will, unattainable still,
Behold it, our Land of Beyond!

Robert W. Service

The God Of Common-Sense

My Daddy used to wallop me for every small offense:
"Its takes a hair-brush back," said he, "to teach kids common-sense."
And still to-day I scarce can look a hair-brush in the face.
Without I want in sympathy to pat a tender place.
For Dad declared with unction: "Spare the brush and spoil the brat."
The dear old man! What e'er his faults he never did do that;
And though a score of years have gone since he departed hence,
I still revere his deity, The God of Common-sense.

How often I have played the ass (Man's universal fate),
Yet always I have saved myself before it was too late;
How often tangled with a dame - you know how these things are,
Yet always had the gumption not to carry on too far;
Remembering that fancy skirts, however high they go,
Are not to be stacked up against a bunch of hard-earned dough;
And sentiment has little weight compared with pounds and pence,
According to the gospel of the God of Common-sense.

Oh blessing on that old hair-brush my Daddy used to whack
With such benign precision on the basement of my back.
Oh blessings on his wisdom, saying: "Son, don't play the fool,
Let prudence be your counselor and reason be your rule.
Don't get romantic notions, always act with judgment calm,
Poetical emotions ain't in practice worth a damn/
let solid comfort be your goal, self-interest your guide. . . ."
Then just as if to emphasize, whack! whack! the brush he plied.
And so I often wonder if my luck is Providence,
or just my humble tribute to the God of Common-sense.

Robert W. Service

Two Husbands

Unpenitent, I grieve to state,
Two good men stood by heaven's gate,
Saint Peter coming to await.
The stopped the Keeper of the Keys,
Saying: "What suppliants are these,
Who wait me not on bended knees?

"To get my heavenly Okay
A man should have been used to pray,
Or suffered in some grievous way."

"Oh I have suffered," cried the first.
"Of wives I had the wicked worst,
Who made my life a plague accurst.

"Such martyrdom no tongue can tell;
In mercy's name it is not well
To doom me to another hell."

Saint Peter said: "I comprehend;
But tribulations have their end.
The gate is open, - go my friend."

Then said the second: "What of me?
More I deserve to pass than he,
For I've been wedded twice, you see."

Saint Peter looked at him a while,
And then he answered with a smile:
"Your application I will file.

"Yet twice in double yoke you've driven . . .
Though sinners with our Saints we leaven,
We don't take IMBECILES in heaven."

Robert W. Service

New Year's Eve

It's cruel cold on the water-front, silent and dark and drear;
Only the black tide weltering, only the hissing snow;
And I, alone, like a storm-tossed wreck, on this night of the glad New Year,
Shuffling along in the icy wind, ghastly and gaunt and slow.

They're playing a tune in McGuffy's saloon, and it's cheery and bright in there
(God! but I'm weak -- since the bitter dawn, and never a bite of food);
I'll just go over and slip inside -- I mustn't give way to despair --
Perhaps I can bum a little booze if the boys are feeling good.

They'll jeer at me, and they'll sneer at me, and they'll call me a whiskey soak;
("Have a drink? Well, thankee kindly, sir, I don't mind if I do.")
A drivelling, dirty, gin-joint fiend, the butt of the bar-room joke;
Sunk and sodden and hopeless -- "Another? Well, here's to you!"

McGuffy is showing a bunch of the boys how Bob Fitzsimmons hit;
The barman is talking of Tammany Hall, and why the ward boss got fired.
I'll just sneak into a corner and they'll let me alone a bit;
The room is reeling round and round . . .O God! but I'm tired, I'm tired. . . .

* * * * *

Roses she wore on her breast that night. Oh, but their scent was sweet!
Alone we sat on the balcony, and the fan-palms arched above;
The witching strain of a waltz by Strauss came up to our cool retreat,
And I prisoned her little hand in mine, and I whispered my plea of love.

Then sudden the laughter died on her lips, and lowly she bent her head;
And oh, there came in the deep, dark eyes a look that was heaven to see;
And the moments went, and I waited there, and never a word was said,
And she plucked from her bosom a rose of red and shyly gave it to me.

Then the music swelled to a crash of joy, and the lights blazed up like day,
And I held her fast to my throbbing heart, and I kissed her bonny brow.
"She is mine, she is mine for evermore!" the violins seemed to say,
And the bells were ringing the New Year in -- O God! I can hear them now.

Don't you remember that long, last waltz, with its sobbing, sad refrain?
Don't you remember that last good-by, and the dear eyes dim with tears?
Don't you remember that golden dream, with never a hint of pain,
Of lives that would blend like an angel-song in the bliss of the coming years?

Oh, what have I lost! What have I lost! Ethel, forgive, forgive!
The red, red rose is faded now, and it's fifty years ago.
'Twere better to die a thousand deaths than live each day as I live!
I have sinned, I have sunk to the lowest depths -- but oh, I have suffered so!

Hark! Oh, hark! I can hear the bells! . . . Look! I can see her there,
Fair as a dream . . . but it fades . . . And now -- I can hear the dreadful hum
Of the crowded court . . . See! the Judge looks down . . .
NOT GUILTY, my Lord, I swear . . .
The bells -- I can hear the bells again! . . . Ethel, I come, I come! . . .

* * * * *

"Rouse up, old man, it's twelve o'clock. You can't sleep here, you know.
Say! ain't you got no sentiment? Lift up your muddled head;
Have a drink to the glad New Year, a drop before you go --
You darned old dirty hobo . . . My God! Here, boys! He's DEAD!"

Robert W. Service

Aunt Jane

When Aunt Jane died we hunted round,
And money everywhere we found.
How much I do not care to say,
But no death duties will we pay,
And Aunt Jane will be well content
We bilked the bloody Government.

While others spent she loved to save,
But couldn't take it to her grave.
While others save we love to spend;
She hated us but in the end
Because she left no Testament
To us all her possessions went.

That is to say they did not find
A lawyer's Will of any kind.
Yet there was one in her own hand,
A Home for Ailing Cats she planned.
Well, you can understand my ire:
Promptly I put it in the fire.

In misery she chose to die,
Yet we will make her money fly.
And as we mourn for poor Aunt Jane
The thought alleviates our pain:
Perhaps her savings in the end
Gave her more joy than we who spend.

Robert W. Service

Mazie's Ghost

In London City I evade
For charming Burlington Arcade -
For thee in youth I met a maid
By name of Mazie,
Who lost no time in telling me
The Ritz put up a topping tea,
But having only shillings three
My smile was hazy.

:Instead," said I, "it might be sport
To take a bus to Hampton Court,"
(Her manner, I remarked, was short,)
But she assented.
We climbed on top, and all the way
I held her hand, I felt quite gay,
Bu Mazie, I regret to say,
Seemed discontented.

In fact we almost had a tiff.
It's true it rained and she was stiff,
And all she did was sneeze and sniff
And shudder coldly.
So I said: "Mazzie, there's the maze;
Let's frolic in its leafy ways,"
And buying tickets where one pays
I entered boldly.

The, as the game is, we were lots;
We dashed and darted, crissed and crossed,
But Mazie she got vexed and sauced
Me rather smartly.
There wasn't but us two about;
We hollered, no one heard our shout;
The rain poured down: "Oh let's get out,"
Cried Mazie tartly.

"Keep cool, says I. "You fool," says she;
"I'm sopping wet, I want my tea,
Please take me home," she wailed to me
In accents bitter.
Again we tried, this way and that,
Yet came to where we started at,
And Mazie acted like a cat,
A champion spitter.

She stomped and romped till all was blue,
Then sought herself to find the clue,
And when I saw her next 'twas through
A leafy screening;
"Come on, she cooed, "and join me here;
You'll take me to the Savoy, dear,
And Heidsieck shall our spirits cheer."
I got her meaning.

And yet I sought her everywhere;
I hurried here, I scurried there,
I took each likely lane, I swar,
As I surmised it:
The suddenly I saw once more,
Confronting me, the exit door,
And I was dashing through before
I realized it.

And there I spied a passing bus.
Thinks I: "It's mean to leave her thus,
But after all her fret and fuss
I can't abide her.
So I sped back to London town
And grubbed alone for half-a-crown,
On steak and kidney pie washed down
With sparkling cider.

But since I left that damsel fair,
The thought she may have perished there,
Of cold, starvation and dispair
Nigh drives me crazy.
So, stranger, if you should invade
The charming Burlington Arcade,
Tell me if you behold a shade,
Ghost of a most unhappy maid
By name of Mazie.

Robert W. Service

Accordion

Some carol of the banjo, to its measure keeping time;
Of viol or of lute some make a song.
My battered old accordion, you're worthy of a rhyme,
You've been my friend and comforter so long.
Round half the world I've trotted you, a dozen years or more;
You've given heaps of people lots of fun;
You've set a host of happy feet a-tapping on the floor . . .
Alas! your dancing days are nearly done.

I've played you from the palm-belt to the suburbs of the Pole;
From the silver-tipped sierras to the sea.
The gay and gilded cabin and the grimy glory-hole
Have echoed to your impish melody.
I've hushed you in the dug-out when the trench was stiff with dead;
I've lulled you by the coral-laced lagoon;
I've packed you on a camel from the dung-fire on the bled,
To the hell-for-breakfast Mountains of the Moon.

I've ground you to the shanty men, a-whooping heel and toe,
And the hula-hula graces in the glade.
I've swung you in the igloo to the lousy Esquimau,
And the Haussa at a hundred in the shade.
The Nigger on the levee, and the Dinka by the Nile
have shuffled to your insolent appeal.
I've rocked with glee the chimpanzee, and mocked the crocodile,
And shocked the pompous penquin and the seal.

I've set the yokels singing in a little Surrey pub,
Apaches swinging in a Belville bar.
I've played an obligato to the tom-tom's rub-a-dub,
And the throb of Andalusian guitar.
From the Horn to Honolulu, from the Cape to Kalamazoo,
From Wick to Wicklow, Samarkand to Spain,
You've roughed it with my kilt-bag like a comrade tried and true. . . .
Old pal! We'll never hit the trail again.

Oh I know you're cheap and vulgar, you're an instrumental crime.
In drawing-rooms you haven't got a show.
You're a musical abortion, you're the voice of grit and grime,
You're the spokesman of the lowly and the low.
You're a democratic devil, you're the darling of the mob;
You're a wheezy, breezy blasted bit of glee.
You're the headache of the high-bow, you're the horror of the snob,
but you're worth your weight in ruddy gold to me.

For you've chided me in weakness and you've cheered me in defeat;
You've been an anodyne in hours of pain;
And when the slugging jolts of life have jarred me off my feet,
You've ragged me back into the ring again.
I'll never go to Heaven, for I know I am not fit,
The golden harps of harmony to swell;
But with asbestos bellows, if the devil will permit,
I'll swing you to the fork-tailed imps of Hell.

Yes, I'll hank you, and I'll spank you,
And I'll everlasting yank you
To the cinder-swinging satellites of Hell.

Robert W. Service

The Robbers

Alas! I see that thrushes three
Are ravishing my old fig tree,
In whose green shade I smoked my pipe
And waited for the fruit to ripe;
From green to purple softly swell
Then drop into my lap to tell
That it is succulently sweet
And excellent to eat.

And now I see the crimson streak,
The greedy gash of yellow beak.
And look! the finches come in throng,
In wavy passage, light with song;
Of course I could scare them away,
But with a shrug: 'The heck!' I say.
I owe them something for their glee,
So let them have their spree.

For all too soon in icy air
My fig tree will be bleak and bare,
Until it wake from Winter sleep
And button buds begin to peep.
Then broad leaves come to shelter me
In luminous placidity.
Then figs will ripen with a rush
And brash will come the thrush.

But what care I though birds destroy
My fruit,--they pay me back with joy.

Robert W. Service

The Ballad Of Hank The Finn

Now Fireman Flynn met Hank the Finn where lights of Lust-land glow;
"Let's leave," says he, "the lousy sea, and give the land a show.
I'm fed up to the molar mark with wallopin' the brine;
I feel the bloody barnacles a-carkin' on me spine.
Let's hit the hard-boiled North a crack, where creeks are paved with gold."
"You count me in," says Hank the Finn. "Ay do as Ay ban told."

And so they sought the Lonely Land and drifted down its stream,
Where sunny silence round them spanned, as dopey as a dream.
But to the spell of flood and fell their gold-grimed eyes were blind;
By pine and peak they paused to seek, but nothing did they find;
No yellow glint of dust to mint, just mud and mocking sand,
And a hateful hush that seemed to crush them down on every hand.
Till Fireman Flynn grew mean as sin, and cursed his comrade cold,
But Hank the Finn would only grin, and . . . do as he was told.

Now Fireman Flynn had pieces ten of yellow Yankee gold,
Which every night he would invite his partner to behold.
"Look hard," says he; "It's all you'll see in this god-blasted land;
But you fret, I'm gonna let you hold them i your hand.
Yeah! Watch 'em gleam, then go and dream they're yours to have and hold."
Then Hank the Finn would scratch his chin and . . . do as he was told.

But every night by camp-fire light, he'd incubate his woes,
And fan the hate of mate for mate, the evil Artic knows.
In dreams the Lapland withes gloomed like gargoyles overhead,
While the devils three of Helsinkee came cowering by his bed.
"Go take," said they, "the yellow loot he's clinking in his belt,
And leave the sneaking wolverines to snout around his pelt.
Last night he called you Swedish scum, from out the glory-hole;
To-day he said you were a bum, and damned your mother's soul.
Go, plug with lead his scurvy head, and grab his greasy gold . . ."
Then Hank the Finn saw red within, and . . . did as he was told.

So in due course the famous Force of Men Who Get Their Man,
Swooped down on sleeping Hank the Finn, and popped him in the can.
And in due time his grievous crime was judged without a plea,
And he was dated up to swing upon the gallows tree.
Then Sheriff gave a party in the Law's almighty name,
He gave a neck-tie party, and he asked me to the same.
There was no hooch a-flowin' and his party wasn't gay,
For O our hearts were heavy at the dawning of the day.
There was no band a-playin' and the only dancin' there
Was Hank the Fin interpretin' his solo in the air.

We climbed the scaffold steps and stood beside the knotted rope.
We watched the hooded hangman and his eyes were dazed with dope.
The Sheriff was in evening dress; a bell began to toll,
A beastly bell that struck a knell of horror to the soul.
As if the doomed one was myself, I shuddered, waiting there.
I spoke no word, then . . . then I heard his step upon the stair;
His halting foot, moccasin clad . . . and then I saw him stand
Between a weeping warder and a priest with Cross in hand.
And at the sight a murmur rose of terror and of awe,
And all them hardened gallows fans were sick at what they saw:
For as he towered above the mob, his limbs with leather triced,
By all that's wonderful, I swear, his face was that of Christ.

Now I ain't no blaspheming cuss, so don't you start to shout.
You see, his beard had grown so long it framed his face about.
His rippling hair was long and fair, his cheeks were spirit-pale,
His face was bright with holy light that made us wince and quail.
He looked at us with eyes a-shine, and sore were we confused,
As if he were the Judge divine, and we were the accused.
Aye, as serene he stood between the hangman and the cord,
You would have sworn, with anguish torn, he was the Blessed Lord.

The priest was wet with icy sweat, the Sheriff's lips were dry,
And we were staring starkly at the man who had to die.
"Lo! I am raised above you all," his pale lips seemed to say,
"For in a moment I shall leap to God's Eternal Day.
Am I not happy! I forgive you each for what you do;
Redeemed and penitent I go, with heart of love for you."
So there he stood in mystic mood, with scorn sublime of death.
I saw him gently kiss the Cross, and then I held by breath.
That blessed smile was blotted out; they dropped the hood of black;
They fixed the noose around his neck, the rope was hanging slack.
I heard him pray, I saw him sway, then . . . then he was not there;
A rope, a ghastly yellow rope was jerking in the air;
A jigging rope that soon was still; a hush as of the tomb,
And Hank the Finn, that man of sin, had met his rightful doom.

His rightful doom! Now that's the point. I'm wondering, because
I hold a man is what he is, and never what he was.
You see, the priest had filled that guy so full of holy dope,
That at the last he came to die as pious as the Pope.
A gentle ray of sunshine made a halo round his head.
I thought to see a sinner - lo! I saw a Saint instead.
Aye, as he stood as martyrs stand, clean-cleansed of mortal dross,
I think he might have gloried had . . . WE NAILED HIM TO A CROSS.

Robert W. Service
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