Robert Service Time... has been a beautiful day... clear and bright... crisp breeze and blue sky... and sunshine... I even dragged my lazy bones out for a walk through the neighborhood... yes.. a nice day, today... even as Monday looms large, I am doing a pretty good job of squeezing the last drops of nectar out of the remaining Sunday evening... I even managed to catch up on some of my reading... both online material, AND real books.... currently, I am almost finished with Stephen King's "The Dark Tower - The Gunslinger"... I have to confess that this is my first attempt to read a King book... not that I don't enjoy his writing, it's just that I normally stick to History and Biography type stuff... but, a good friend recommended that I read it.. and that, so they say, was that.... so, I'm doing as I was told... heh...

...but, now I have settled in for the evening, I suppose... no more walks... no more real books... I picked up my tattered old first edition of "Rhymes of a Red Cross Man" as I walked back to The Manroom.. I love this book... I bought it on e-bay for 30 bucks a few years ago... I bet I've read it 100 times... lately I just pick it up to leaf through... and place back on the shelf... but, not tonight... you guys are getting a dose of Service whether you like it or not...

...remember, gentle people... read it out loud to yourself... it is the way it was meant to be read... the rhyme is great, and you'll thank yourself afterwards... and, if you don't enjoy it, send me some hatemail or something... actually, this particular Service Poem is one of my all-time favorites..

The Law of the R. W. Service

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 dooms.
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 forever 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 sinking down;
Steeped in the slime at the bottom, dead to a decent world,
Lost 'mid the human flotsam, far on the frontier 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 natheless 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 shame;
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 broods;
Steeped in eternal beauty, crystalline waters and woods.
Long have I waited lonely, shunned as a thing accurst,
Monstrous, moody, pathetic, the last of the lands and the first;
Visioning camp-fires at twilight, sad with a longing 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 motherhood,
Of cities leaping to stature, of fame like a flag unfurled,
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!

by Eric on February 08, 2004 | Comments(2) | R W Service

Comments so far:

thats the furst ive ever read of robert service, sir, tho i been hearin about him fer the longest. jes never picked nuthin up n dont know how i missed doon it.

so thankee fer the innerduckshun! is 'rhymes of a red cross man' the best place to start gittin to know his poetry?

posted by: buddy don on February 9, 2004 06:09 AM

hey, Hillbilly, glad you liked the poem... he wrote "Red Cross Man" while he was serving as a stretcher bearer during WW1... so, the poems are more focused towards battle, loss, etc.. he is normally remembered for his Yukon tales.. such as the one I posted... but, any place is good to start getting to know Mr. Service.. he's the real deal..

posted by: Eric on February 9, 2004 06:41 AM