Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Robert Service

So the stranger stumbles across the room, and flops down there like a fool.
In a buckskin shirt that was glazed with dirt he sat, and I saw him sway;
Then he clutched the keys with his talon hands—my God! but that man could play!

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 a 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 haunch what the music meant…hunger and night and the stars.
-Robert Service, from “The Shooting of Dan McGrew”

The poem takes place in Dawson; in fact, I'm just finished a novel by Robert Kroetsch based on the poem's mysterious female character, the lady that’s known as Lou. Robert Service spent 1909-1912 in the little cabin across the street from where I’m staying (photo to follow as soon as my camera gets here!), working on his third volume of Yukon-inspired poems. The title? Songs of a Rolling Stone.

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