Robert Service, fully Robert William Service

Robert
Service, fully Robert William Service
1874
1958

English Poet and Writer, known as "the Bard of the Yukon"

Author Quotes

This crowded life of God's good giving
No man has relished more than I;
I've been so goldarned busy living
I've never had the time to die.
So busy fishing, hunting, roving,
Up on my toes and fighting fit;
So busy singing, laughing, loving,
I've never had the time to quit.

I've never been one for thinking
I've always been the action guy;
I've done my share of feasting, drinking,
And lots of wenching on the sly.
What all the blasted cosmic show meant,
I've never tried to understand;
I've always lived just for the moment,
And done the thing that came to hand.

And now I'll toddle to the garden
And light a good old Henry Clay.
I'm ninety odd, so Lord, please pardon
My frequent lapses by the way.
I'm getting tired; the sunset lingers;
The evening star serenes the sky;
The damn cigar burns to my fingers . . .
I guess . . . I'll take . . . time off . . . to die.

If you had the choice of two women to wed,
(Though of course the idea is quite absurd)
And the first from her heels to her dainty head
Was charming in every sense of the word:
And yet in the past (I grieve to state),
She never had been exactly "straight".

And the second -- she was beyond all cavil,
A model of virtue, I must confess;
And yet, alas! she was dull as the devil,
And rather a dowd in the way of dress;
Though what she was lacking in wit and beauty,
She more than made up for in "sense of duty".

Now, suppose you must wed, and make no blunder,
And either would love you, and let you win her --
Which of the two would you choose, I wonder,
The stolid saint or the sparkling sinner?

If starry space no limit knows
And sun succeeds to sun,
There is no reason to suppose
Our earth the only one.
'Mid countless constellations cast
A million worlds may be,
With each a God to bless or blast
And steer to destiny.

Just think! A million gods or so
To guide each vital stream,
With over all to boss the show
A Deity supreme.
Such magnitudes oppress my mind;
From cosmic space it swings;
So ultimately glad to find
Relief in little things.

For look! Within my hollow hand,
While round the earth careens,
I hold a single grain of sand
And wonder what it means.
Ah! If I had the eyes to see,
And brain to understand,
I think Life's mystery might be
Solved in this grain of sand.

There's sunshine in the heart of me,
My blood sings in the breeze;
The mountains are a part of me,
I'm fellow to the trees.
My golden youth I'm squandering,
Sun-libertine am I;
A-wandering, a-wandering,
Until the day I die.

I was once, I declare, a Stone-Age man,
And I roomed in the cool of a cave;
I have known, I will swear, in a new life-span,
The fret and the sweat of a slave:
For far over all that folks hold worth,
There lives and there leaps in me
A love of the lowly things of earth,
And a passion to be free.

To pitch my tent with no prosy plan,
To range and to change at will;
To mock at the mastership of man,
To seek Adventure's thrill.
Carefree to be, as a bird that sings;
To go my own sweet way;
To reck not at all what may befall,
But to live and to love each day.

To make my body a temple pure
Wherein I dwell serene;
To care for the things that shall endure,
The simple, sweet and clean.
To oust out envy and hate and rage,
To breathe with no alarm;
For Nature shall be my anchorage,
And none shall do me harm.

To shun all lures that debauch the soul,
The orgied rites of the rich;
To eat my crust as a rover must
With the rough-neck down in the ditch.
To trudge by his side whate'er betide;
To share his fire at night;
To call him friend to the long trail-end,
And to read his heart aright.

To scorn all strife, and to view all life
With the curious eyes of a child;
From the plangent sea to the prairie,
From the slum to the heart of the Wild.
From the red-rimmed star to the speck of sand,
From the vast to the greatly small;
For I know that the whole for good is planned,
And I want to see it all.

To see it all, the wide world-way,
From the fig-leaf belt to the Pole;
With never a one to say me nay,
And none to cramp my soul.
In belly-pinch I will pay the price,
But God! let me be free;
For once I know in the long ago,
They made a slave of me.

In a flannel shirt from earth's clean dirt,
Here, pal, is my calloused hand!
Oh, I love each day as a rover may,
Nor seek to understand.
To enjoy is good enough for me;
The gipsy of God am I;
Then here's a hail to each flaring dawn!
And here's a cheer to the night that's gone!
And may I go a-roaming on
Until the day I die!

Then every star shall sing to me
Its song of liberty;
And every morn shall bring to me
Its mandate to be free.
In every throbbing vein of me
I'll feel the vast Earth-call;
O body, heart and brain of me
Praise Him who made it all!

Let us be thankful, Lord, for little things -
The song of birds, the rapture of the rose;
Cloud-dappled skies, the laugh of limpid springs,
Drowned sunbeams and the perfume April blows;
Bronze wheat a-shimmer, purple shade of trees -
Let us be thankful, Lord of Life, for these!

Let us be praiseful, Sire, for simple sights; -
The blue smoke curling from a fire of peat;
Keen stars a-frolicking on frosty nights,
Prismatic pigeons strutting in a street;
Daisies dew-diamonded in smiling sward -
For simple sights let us be praiseful, Lord!

Let us be grateful, God, for health serene,
The hope to do a kindly deed each day;
The faith of fellowship, a conscience clean,
The will to worship and the gift to pray;
For all of worth in us, of You a part,
Let us be grateful, God, with humble heart.

Say! You've struck a heap of trouble --
Bust in business, lost your wife;
No one cares a cent about you,
You don't care a cent for life;
Hard luck has of hope bereft you,
Health is failing, wish you'd die --
Why, you've still the sunshine left you
And the big, blue sky.

Sky so blue it makes you wonder
If it's heaven shining through;
Earth so smiling 'way out yonder,
Sun so bright it dazzles you;
Birds a-singing, flowers a-flinging
All their fragrance on the breeze;
Dancing shadows, green, still meadows --
Don't you mope, you've still got these.

These, and none can take them from you;
These, and none can weigh their worth.
What! you're tired and broke and beaten? --
Why, you're rich -- you've got the earth!
Yes, if you're a tramp in tatters,
While the blue sky bends above
You've got nearly all that matters --
You've got God, and God is love.

Just Home and Love! the words are small
Four little letters unto each;
And yet you will not find in all
The wide and gracious range of speech
Two more so tenderly complete:
When angels talk in Heaven above,
I'm sure they have no words more sweet
Than Home and Love.

Just Home and Love! it's hard to guess
Which of the two were best to gain;
Home without Love is bitterness;
Love without Home is often pain.
No! each alone will seldom do;
Somehow they travel hand and glove:
If you win one you must have two,
Both Home and Love.

And if you've both, well then I'm sure
You ought to sing the whole day long;
It doesn't matter if you're poor
With these to make divine your song.
And so I praisefully repeat,
When angels talk in Heaven above,
There are no words more simply sweet
Than Home and Love.

Three times I had the lust to kill,
To clutch a throat so young and fair,
And squeeze with all my might until
No breath of being lingered there.
Three times I drove the demon out,
Though on my brow was evil sweat. . . .
And yet I know beyond a doubt
He'll get me yet, he'll get me yet.

I know I'm mad, I ought to tell
The doctors, let them care for me,
Confine me in a padded cell
And never, never set me free;
But Oh how cruel that would be!
For I am young - and comely too . . .
Yet dim my demon I can see,
And there is but one thing to do.

Three times I beat the foul fiend back;
The fourth, I know he will prevail,
And so I'll seek the railway track
And lay my head upon the rail,
And sight the dark and distant train,
And hear its thunder louder roll,
Coming to crush my cursed brain . . .
Oh God, have mercy on my soul!

The Spell of the Yukon - 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.

It's coming soon and soon, mother, it's nearer every day,
When only men who work and sweat will have a word to say;
When all who earn their honest bread in every land and soil
Will claim the Brotherhood of Man, the Comradeship of Toil;
When we, the Workers, all demand: `What are we fighting for?' . . .
Then, then we'll end that stupid crime, that devil's madness -- War

Mud is mankind in the moulding,
Heaven's mystery unfolding.

There's the wretched rent to pay,
Yet I glower at pen and ink:
Oh, inspire me, Muse, I pray,
It is later than you think!

My Library - Like prim Professor of a College
I primed my shelves with books of knowledge;
And now I stand before them dumb,
Just like a child that sucks its thumb,
And stares forlorn and turns away,
With dolls or painted bricks to play.

They glour at me, my tomes of learning.
You dolt! they jibe; you undiscerning
Moronic oaf, you make a fuss,
With highbrow swank selecting us;
Saying: I'll read you all some day' -
And now you yawn and turn away.

Unwanted wait we with our store
Of facts and philosophic lore;
The scholarship of all the ages
Snug packed within our uncut pages;
The mystery of all mankind
In part revealed - but you are blind.

You have no time to read, you tell us;
Oh, do not think that we are jealous
Of all the trash that wins your favour,
The flimsy fiction that you savour:
We only beg that sometimes you
Will spare us just an hour or two.

For all the minds that went to make us
Are dust if folk like you forsake us,
And they can only live again
By virtue of your kindling brain;
In magic print they packed their best:
Come - try their wisdom to digest…

Said I: Alas! I am not able;
I lay my cards upon the table,
And with deep shame and blame avow
I am too old to read you now;
So I will lock you in glass cases
And shun your sad, reproachful faces.

My library is noble planned,
Yet in it desolate I stand;
And though my thousand books I prize,
Feeling a witling in their eyes,
I turn from them in weariness
To wallow in the Daily Press.

For, oh, I never, never will
The noble field of knowledge till:
I pattern words with artful tricks,
As children play with painted bricks,
And realize with futile woe,
Nothing I know - nor want to know.

My library has windowed nooks;
And so I turn from arid books
To vastitude of sea and sky,
And like a child content am I
With peak and plain and brook and tree,
Crying: Behold! the books for me:
Nature, be thou my Library!

Prelude, Carols of an Old Codger - They say that rhyme and rhythm are
Outmoded now.
I do not know, for I am far
From high of brow.
But if the twain you take away,
Since basely bred,
Proud Poetry, I dare to say,
Would scarce be read.
With humble heart I thus define
My role in rhyme:
Oh may I never write a line
That does not chime.
And though a verse be nigh as sweet
As honey-comb,
To please me, let it have the beat
Of metronome.
So to my modest muse I give
A grateful pen;
Of lowliness I sing, who live
With lowly men.
And though I never cease to grieve
Poetic lack,
I do my best, - please take or leave
A Verseman's Pack.

If you had a friend strong, simple, true,
Who knew your faults and who understood;
Who believed in the very best of you,
And who cared for you as a father would;
Who would stick by you to the very end,
Who would smile however the world might frown:
I'm sure you would try to please your friend,
You never would think to throw him down.

And supposing your friend was high and great,
And he lived in a palace rich and tall,
And sat like a King in shining state,
And his praise was loud on the lips of all;
Well then, when he turned to you alone,
And he singled you out from all the crowd,
And he called you up to his golden throne,
Oh, wouldn't you just be jolly proud?

If you had a friend like this, I say,
So sweet and tender, so strong and true,
You'd try to please him in every way,
You'd live at your bravest -- now, wouldn't you?
His worth would shine in the words you penned;
You'd shout his praises . . . yet now it's odd!
You tell me you haven't got such a friend;
You haven't? I wonder . . . What of God?

Lone amid the cafe's cheer,
Sad of heart am I to-night;
Dolefully I drink my beer,
But no single line I write.
There's the wretched rent to pay,
Yet I glower at pen and ink:
Oh, inspire me, Muse, I pray,
It is later than you think!

Hello! there's a pregnant phrase.
Bravo! let me write it down;
Hold it with a hopeful gaze,
Gauge it with a fretful frown;
Tune it to my lyric lyre . . .
Ah! upon starvation's brink,
How the words are dark and dire:
It is later than you think.

Weigh them well. . . . Behold yon band,
Students drinking by the door,
Madly merry, bock in hand,
Saucers stacked to mark their score.
Get you gone, you jolly scamps;
Let your parting glasses clink;
Seek your long neglected lamps:
It is later than you think.

Look again: yon dainty blonde,
All allure and golden grace,
Oh so willing to respond
Should you turn a smiling face.
Play your part, poor pretty doll;
Feast and frolic, pose and prink;
There's the Morgue to end it all,
And it's later than you think.

Yon's a playwright -- mark his face,
Puffed and purple, tense and tired;
Pasha-like he holds his place,
Hated, envied and admired.
How you gobble life, my friend;
Wine, and woman soft and pink!
Well, each tether has its end:
Sir, it's later than you think.

See yon living scarecrow pass
With a wild and wolfish stare
At each empty absinthe glass,
As if he saw Heaven there.
Poor damned wretch, to end your pain
There is still the Greater Drink.
Yonder waits the sanguine Seine . . .
It is later than you think.

Lastly, you who read; aye, you
Who this very line may scan:
Think of all you planned to do . . .
Have you done the best you can?
See! the tavern lights are low;
Black's the night, and how you shrink!
God! and is it time to go?
Ah! the clock is always slow;
It is later than you think;
Sadly later than you think;
Far, far later than you think.

I just think that dreams are best,
Just to sit and fancy things;
Give your gold no acid test,
Try not how your silver rings;
Fancy women pure and good,
Fancy men upright and true:
Fortressed in your solitude,
Let Life be a dream to you.

For I think that Thought is all;
Truth's a minion of the mind;
Love's ideal comes at call;
As ye seek so shall ye find.
But ye must not seek too far;
Things are never what they seem:
Let a star be just a star,
And a woman -- just a dream.

O you Dreamers, proud and pure,
You have gleaned the sweet of life!
Golden truths that shall endure
Over pain and doubt and strife.
I would rather be a fool
Living in my Paradise,
Than the leader of a school,
Sadly sane and weary wise.

O you Cynics with your sneers,
Fallen brains and hearts of brass,
Tweak me by my foolish ears,
Write me down a simple ass!
I'll believe the real "you"
Is the "you" without a taint;
I'll believe each woman too,
But a slightly damaged saint.

Yes, I'll smoke my cigarette,
Vestured in my garb of dreams,
And I'll borrow no regret;
All is gold that golden gleams.
So I'll charm my solitude
With the faith that Life is blest,
Brave and noble, bright and good,

Yet in spite of failing things
I've no cause to grieve;
Age with all its ailing brings
Blessings, I believe:
Kindo' gentles up the mind
As the hope we hold
That with loving we will find
Friendliness in human kind,
Grace in growing old.

Let poets piece prismatic words,
Give me the jewelled joy of birds!

What ecstasy moves them to sing?
Is it the lyric glee of Spring,
The dewy rapture of the rose?
Is it the worship born in those
Who are of Nature's self a part,
The adoration of the heart?

Is it the mating mood in them
That makes each crystal note a gem?
Oh mocking bird and nightingale,
Oh mavis, lark and robin - hail!
Tell me what perfect passion glows
In your inspired arpeggios?

A thrush is thrilling as I write
Its obligato of delight;
And in its fervour, as in mine,
I fathom tenderness divine,
And pity those of earthy ear
Who cannot hear . . . who cannot hear.

Let poets pattern pretty words:
For lovely largesse - bless you, Birds!

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.

It's good the great green earth to roam,
Where sights of awe the soul inspire;
But oh, it's best, the coming home,
The crackle of one's own hearth-fire!
You've hob-nobbed with the solemn Past;
You've seen the pageantry of kings;
Yet oh, how sweet to gain at last
The peace and rest of Little Things!

Perhaps you're counted with the Great;
You strain and strive with mighty men;
Your hand is on the helm of State;
Colossus-like you stride . . . and then
There comes a pause, a shining hour,
A dog that leaps, a hand that clings:
O Titan, turn from pomp and power;
Give all your heart to Little Things.

Go couch you childwise in the grass,
Believing it's some jungle strange,
Where mighty monsters peer and pass,
Where beetles roam and spiders range.
'Mid gloom and gleam of leaf and blade,
What dragons rasp their painted wings!
O magic world of shine and shade!
O beauty land of Little Things!

I sometimes wonder, after all,
Amid this tangled web of fate,
If what is great may not be small,
And what is small may not be great.
So wondering I go my way,
Yet in my heart contentment sings . . .
O may I ever see, I pray,
God's grace and love in Little Things.

So give to me, I only beg,
A little roof to call my own,
A little cider in the keg,
A little meat upon the bone;
A little garden by the sea,
A little boat that dips and swings . . .
Take wealth, take fame, but leave to me,
O Lord of Life, just Little Things.

I count each day a little life,
With birth and death complete;
I cloister it from care and strife
And keep it sane and sweet.

With eager eyes I greet the morn,
Exultant as a boy,
Knowing that I am newly born
To wonder and to joy.

And when the sunset splendors wane
And ripe for rest am I,
Knowing that I will live again,
Exultantly I die.

O that all Life were but a Day
Sunny and sweet and sane!
And that at Even I might say:
"I sleep to wake again."

There's sunshine in the heart of me,
My blood sings in the breeze;
The mountains are a part of me,
I'm fellow to the trees.
My golden youth I'm squandering,
Sun-libertine am I;
A-wandering, a-wandering,
Until the day I die.

The Junior God now heads the roll
In the list of heaven's peers;
He sits in the House of High Control,
And he regulates the spheres.
Yet does he wonder, do you suppose,
If, even in gods divine,
The best and wisest may not be those
Who have wallowed awhile with the swine?

Dirt is just matter out of place.

Author Picture
First Name
Robert
Last Name
Service, fully Robert William Service
Birth Date
1874
Death Date
1958
Bio

English Poet and Writer, known as "the Bard of the Yukon"