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Poem by Robert William Service

The Spell of the Yukon

I wanted the gold, and I sought it;
   I scrabbled and mucked like a slave.
Was it famine or scurvyI fought it;
   I hurled my youth into a grave.
I wanted the gold, and I got it 
   Came out with a fortune last fall, 
Yet somehow lifes not what I thought it,
   And somehow the gold isnt all.

No! Theres the land. (Have you seen it?)
   Its the cussedest land that I know,
From the big, dizzy mountains that screen it
   To the deep, deathlike valleys below.
Some say God was tired when He made it;
   Some say its a fine land to shun;
Maybe; but theres some as would trade it
   For no land on earthand Im one.

You come to get rich (damned good reason);
   You feel like an exile at first;
You hate it like hell for a season,
   And then you are worse than the worst.
It grips you like some kinds of sinning;
   It twists you from foe to a friend;
It seems its been since the beginning;
   It seems it will be to the end.

Ive stood in some mighty-mouthed hollow
   Thats plumb-full of hush to the brim;
Ive watched the big, husky sun wallow
   In crimson and gold, and grow dim,
Till the moon set the pearly peaks gleaming,
   And the stars tumbled out, neck and crop;
And Ive thought that I surely was dreaming,
   With the peace o the world piled on top.

The summerno sweeter was ever;
   The sunshiny woods all athrill;
The grayling aleap in the river,
   The bighorn asleep on the hill.
The strong life that never knows harness;
   The wilds where the caribou call;
The freshness, the freedom, the farness
   O God! how Im stuck on it all.

The winter! the brightness that blinds you,
   The white land locked tight as a drum,
The cold fear that follows and finds you,
   The silence that bludgeons you dumb.
The snows that are older than history,
   The woods where the weird shadows slant;
The stillness, the moonlight, the mystery,
   Ive bade em good-bybut I cant.

Theres a land where the mountains are nameless,
   And the rivers all run God knows where;
There are lives that are erring and aimless,
   And deaths that just hang by a hair;
There are hardships that nobody reckons;
   There are valleys unpeopled and still;
Theres a landoh, it beckons and beckons,
   And I want to go backand I will.

Theyre making my money diminish;
   Im sick of the taste of champagne.
Thank God! when Im skinned to a finish
   Ill pike to the Yukon again.
Ill fightand you bet its no sham-fight;
   Its hell!but Ive been there before;
And its better than this by a damsite
   So me for the Yukon once more.

Theres gold, and its haunting and haunting;
   Its luring me on as of old;
Yet it isnt the gold that Im wanting
   So much as just finding the gold.
Its the great, big, broad land way up yonder,
   Its the forests where silence has lease;
Its the beauty that thrills me with wonder,
   Its the stillness that fills me with peace.

Robert William Service

Robert William Service's other poems:
  1. The Wee Shop
  2. The Sum-Up
  3. Resolutions
  4. The Robbers
  5. Pedlar

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