Christmas poetry

Freeman/Pavey

Message 15329 · 25 Dec 1998 17:13:52 · Variable-width font · Whole thread

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Thank you, Keith, for your poems. I particularily liked the second
one. (After opening my stocking I couldn't resist turning on the
computer to see if there were any messages.) In the same spirit here
is a traditional Canadian Christmas poem which will be very familiar to
our Canadian subscribers, but no doubt less so to others. Its one of my
favourites and I've known it all by heart since childhood. (And yes,
the word is "moil" not "toil" ..... see below.)

Merry Christmas,
Cole
-------------------

The Cremation of Sam McGee
                            by Robert W. Service

           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 that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
                         I cremated Sam McGee

                 Now Sam McGee was from Tennessee,
                   where the cotton blooms and blows
               Why he left his home in the South to roam
                    'round the Pole, God only knows.
                He was always cold but the land of gold
                     seemed to hold him like a spell;
                Though he'd often say in his homely way
                       that he'd sooner live in Hell.

            On a Christmas Day we were mushing our way
                          over the Dawson trail.
               Talk of your cold! through the parka's fold
                       it stabbed like a driven nail.
              If our eyes we'd close, then the lashes froze
                      till sometimes we couldn't see,
                  It wasn't much fun, but the only one
                      to whimper was Sam McGee.

               And that very night, as we lay packed tight
                     in our robes beneath the snow,
             And the dogs were fed, and the stars o'erhead
                       were dancing heel and toe,
                 He turned to me, and "Cap", says he,
                      "I'll cash in this trip, I guess;
                     And if I do, I'm asking that you
                      won't refuse my last request."

             Well, he seemed so low that I couldn't say no;
                    then he says with a sort of moan,
               "It's the cursed cold, and it's got right hold
                till I'm chilled clean through to the bone
                Yet 'taint being dead-it's my awful dread
                       of the icy grave that pains;
                So I want you to swear that, foul or fair,
                     you'll cremate my last remains.

                   A pal's last need is a thing to heed,
                        so I swore I would not fail;
                And we started on at the streak of dawn
                    but God! he looked ghastly pale.
            He crouched on the sleigh, and he raved all day
                        of his home in Tennessee;
                  And before nightfall a corpse was all
                      that was left of Sam McGee.

              There wasn't a breath in that land of death,
                       and I hurried, horror-driven
              With a corpse half hid that I couldn't get rid,
                       because of a promise given;
            It was lashed to the sleigh, and it seemed to say.
                 "You may tax your brawn and brains,
                But you promised true, and it's up to you
                     to cremate these last remains".

                 Now a promise made is a debt unpaid,
                   and the trail has its own stern code,
            In the days to come, though my lips were dumb
                   in my heart how I cursed that load!
               In the long, long night, by the lone firelight,
                    while the huskies, round in a ring,
             Howled out their woes to the homeless snows-
                    Oh God, how I loathed the thing!

                      And every day that quiet clay
                   seemed to heavy and heavier grow;
               And on I went, though the dogs were spent
                      and the grub was getting low.
                  The trail was bad, and I felt half mad,
                     but I swore I would not give in;
                 And I'd often sing to the hateful thing,
                      and it hearkened with a grin.

               Till I came to the marge of Lake Lebarge,
                         and a derelict there lay;
              It was jammed in the ice, but I saw in a trice
                       it was called the Alice May,
                 And I looked at it, and I thought a bit,
                    and I looked at my frozen chum;
  Then "Here", said I, with a sudden cry, "is my cre-ma-tor-eum"!

                Some planks I tore from the cabin floor
                          and I lit the boiler fire;
                Some coal I found that was lying around,
                      and I heaped the fuel higher;
            The flames just soared, and the furnace roared
                       such a blaze you seldom see,
               And I burrowed a hole in the glowing coal,
                      and I stuffed in Sam McGee.

                   Then I made a hike, for I didn't like
                           to hear him sizzle so;
           And the heavens scowled, and the huskies howled,
                       and the wind began to blow,
                 It was icy cold, but the hot sweat rolled
                down my cheeks, and I don't know why;
                 And the greasy smoke in an inky cloak
                      went streaking down the sky.

                   I do not know how long in the snow
                        I wrestled with grisly fear;
             But the stars came out and they danced about
                        ere again I ventured near;
                I was sick with dread, but I bravely said,
                       "I'll just take a peep inside.
              I guess he's cooked, and it's time I looked".
                      Then the door I opened wide.

               And there sat Sam, looking cool and calm,
                     in the heart of the furnace roar;
               And he wore a smile you could see a mile,
                  and he said, "Please close that door.
                    It's fine in here, but I greatly fear
                     you'll let in the cold and storm-
                Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee,
                   it's the first time I've been warm".

           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 that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
                         I cremated Sam McGee

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