Tonight I have been thinking about a post that I wrote six years ago. I was a day behind on Jeopardy! so this clue that caught my eye was from Wednesday.
I was really surprised that no one could answer this in the form of a question. Why didn’t any of the contestants respond “Who is McGee?” In fact, no one even attempted a reply.
Is this great Canadian poet not as well known today?
I will share below what I wrote back in 2017.
Robert Service – July 1, 2017
This weekend I have been thinking about our friends up north since it is Canada Day.
Since I have been thinking of Canada I have been thinking of some of my favorite Canadian writers, which include one of my favorite poets.
Robert William Service was born in Lancashire, England but first went to Canada at the age of 21 and ended up in British Columbia.
He also spent time in the Yukon which was the setting for some of his best known poems. Because of this he is often referred to as the Bard of the Yukon.
I sometimes open this book of his poems to a random page and just enjoy his poetry.
I also carry this little booklet of his poems in my computer backpack as it includes some of my favorite poems. The poems are all written about the Yukon. The title of the booklet, Under the Midnight Sun, comes from the first line of The Cremation of Sam McGee.
I have read these poems in many places around the world during my travels.
The booklet has the following poems:
- The Cremation of Sam McGee
- The Shooting of Dan McGrew
- The Spell of the Yukon
- The Men That Don’t Fit In
- The Law of the Yukon
- The Call of the Wild
My favorite poem of Robert Service is The Cremation of Sam McGee and it is featured on the Canadian postage stamp that honored him.
My first memory of the poems of Robert Service came during my first Boy Scout camp out on the Arnold ranch south of Ashland, Kansas. The Scoutmaster recited The Cremation of Sam McGee from memory as we sat around the campfire in the dark.
Can you imagine hearing the following lines for the first time on a dark moonless night with coyotes howling in the distance?
There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was the night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.
When I read the poem I usually read it aloud as there is a certain rhythm that is hard to get if I just quickly read it to myself. I just read the poem again just before I wrote this paragraph. There are some parts that I can almost recite from memory, but I am not even close to being able to recite the entire poem of 120 lines.
This poem brings back so many good memories.
WWRI – Written With Real Intelligence
This is the third time this week I’ve crossed paths with this poem. I wrote a paper on it in college it’s round 1985, and hadn’t thought about it since. Yet when I explained this to my wife yesterday, I was suddenly able to recite the first stanza from memory, except I thought it was “…toil for gold.”