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Robert William Service
1874 - 1958
( )


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Fi-Fi, in Bed
Gods in the Gutter
My friends
Just Think!
My Madonna
Her letter
I have no doubt at all
Home and Love
The Men, that Dont Fit In

 



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Fi-Fi, in Bed

Up into the sky I stare;
All the little stars I see;
And I know that God is there
O, how lonely He must be!
Me, I laugh and leap all day,
Till my head begins to nod;
He's so great, He cannot play:
I am glad I am not God.
Poor kind God upon His throne,
Up there in the sky so blue,
Always, always all alone . . .
"~Please, dear God, I pity You.~"


Gods in the Gutter

I dreamed I saw three demi-gods who in a cafe sat,
And one was small and crapulous, and one was large and fat;
And one was eaten up with vice and verminous at that.
The first he spoke of secret sins, and gems and perfumes rare;
And velvet cats and courtesans voluptuously fair:
"Who is the Sybarite?" I asked.  They answered:  "Baudelaire."

The second talked in tapestries, by fantasy beguiled;
As frail as bubbles, hard as gems, his pageantries he piled;
"This Lord of Language, who is he?"  They whispered "Oscar Wilde."
The third was staring at his glass from out abysmal pain;
With tears his eyes were bitten in beneath his bulbous brain.
"Who is the sodden wretch?" I said.  They told me:  "Paul Verlaine."

Oh, Wilde, Verlaine and Baudelaire, their lips were wet with wine;
Oh poseur, pimp and libertine!  Oh cynic, sot and swine!
Oh votaries of velvet vice! . . .  Oh gods of light divine!
Oh Baudelaire, Verlaine and Wilde, they knew the sinks of shame;
Their sun-aspiring wings they scorched at passion's altar flame;
Yet lo! enthroned, enskied they stand, Immortal Sons of Fame.

I dreamed I saw three demi-gods who walked with feet of clay,
With cruel crosses on their backs, along a miry way;
Who climbed and climbed the bitter steep to which men turn and pray.

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My friends

The man above was a murderer, the man below was a thief;
And I lay there in the bunk between, ailing beyond belief;
A weary armful of skin and bone, wasted with pain and grief.
 
My feet were froze, and the lifeless toes were purple and green and gray;
The little flesh that clung to my bones, you could punch it in holes like clay;
The skin on my gums was a sullen black, and slowly peeling away.
 
I was sure enough in a direful fix, and often I wondered why
They did not take the chance that was left and leave me alone to die,
Or finish me off with a dose of dope -- so utterly lost was I.
 
But no; they brewed me the green-spruce tea, and nursed me there like a child;
And the homicide he was good to me, and bathed my sores and smiled;
And the thief he starved that I might be fed, and his eyes were kind and mild.
 
Yet they were woefully wicked men, and often at night in pain
I heard the murderer speak of his deed and dream it over again;
I heard the poor thief sorrowing for the dead self he had slain.
 
I'll never forget that bitter dawn, so evil, askew and gray,
When they wrapped me round in the skins of beasts and they bore me to a sleigh,
And we started out with the nearest post an hundred miles away.
 
I'll never forget the trail they broke, with its tense, unuttered woe;
And the crunch, crunch, crunch as their snowshoes sank through the crust of the hollow snow;
And my breath would fail, and every beat of my heart was like a blow.
 
And oftentimes I would die the death, yet wake up to life anew;
The sun would be all ablaze on the waste, and the sky a blighting blue,
And the tears would rise in my snow-blind eyes and furrow my cheeks like dew.
 
And the camps we made when their strength outplayed and the day was pinched and wan;
And oh, the joy of that blessed halt, and how I did dread the dawn;
And how I hated the weary men who rose and dragged me on.
 
And oh, how I begged to rest, to rest -- the snow was so sweet a shroud;
And oh, how I cried when they urged me on, cried and cursed them aloud;
Yet on they strained, all racked and pained, and sorely their backs were bowed.
 
And then it was all like a lurid dream, and I prayed for a swift release
From the ruthless ones who would not leave me to die alone in peace;
Till I wakened up and I found myself at the post of the Mounted Police.
 
And there was my friend the murderer, and there was my friend the thief,
With bracelets of steel around their wrists, and wicked beyond belief:
But when they come to God's judgment seat -- may I be allowed the brief.

Just Think!

Just think! some night the stars will gleam
Upon a cold, grey stone,
And trace a name with silver beam,
And lo! 'twill be your own.
That night is speeding on to greet
Your epitaphic rhyme.
Your life is but a little beat
Within the heart of Time.
A little gain, a little pain,
A laugh, lest you may moan;
A little blame, a little fame,
A star-gleam on a stone.

My Madonna

I haled me a woman from the street,
Shameless, but, oh, so fair!
I bade her sit in the model's seat
And I painted her sitting there.
I hid all trace of her heart unclean;
I painted a babe at her breast;
I painted her as she might have been
If the Worst had been the Best.
She laughed at my picture and went away.
Then came, with a knowing nod,
A connoisseur, and I heard him say;
"'Tis Mary, the Mother of God."
So I painted a halo round her hair,
And I sold her and took my fee,
And she hangs in the church of Saint Hillaire,
Where you and all may see.


Her letter

I'm taking pen in hand this night, and hard it is for me;
My poor old fingers tremble so, my hand is stiff and slow,
And even with my glasses on I'm troubled sore to see. . . .
You'd little know your mother, boy; you'd little, little know.
You mind how brisk and bright I was, how straight and trim and smart;
'Tis weariful I am the now, and bent and frail and grey.
I'm waiting at the road's end, lad; and all that's in my heart,
Is just to see my boy again before I'm called away."
 
"Oh well I mind the sorry day you crossed the gurly sea;
'Twas like the heart was torn from me, a waeful wife was I.
You said that you'd be home again in two years, maybe three;
But nigh a score of years have gone, and still the years go by.
I know it's cruel hard for you, you've bairnies of your own;
I know the siller's hard to win, and folks have used you ill:
But oh, think of your mother, lad, that's waiting by her lone!
And even if you canna come -- just write and say you will."
 
"Aye, even though there's little hope, just promise that you'll try.
It's weary, weary waiting, lad; just say you'll come next year.
I'm thinking there will be no 'next'; I'm thinking soon I'll lie
With all the ones I've laid away . . . but oh, the hope will cheer!
You know you're all that's left to me, and we are seas apart;
But if you'll only say you'll come, then will I hope and pray.
I'm waiting by the grave-side, lad; and all that's in my heart
Is just to see my boy again before I'm called away."

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I have no doubt at all the Devil grins,
As seas of ink I spatter.
Ye gods, forgive my "literary" sins --
The other kind don't matter.

Home and 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.


The Men, that Dont Fit In

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.

The original home page of Robert W.Service


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