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The Spell of the Yukon and Other Verses

Robert W. Service

Book Overview: 

Known as the Bard of the Yukon and as a people's poet, Robert Service immortalized his experience with the Yukon and its gold rush and this collection of poetry. While some poems are anecdotal and amusing, others capture the raw brilliance that frontiers evoke and the ever pioneering spirit of man. Alternately titled Songs of a Sourdough in the United Kingdoms.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .rmless, 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, . . . Read More

Community Reviews

I find reviewing poetry really difficult, so I don't have anything particularly brilliant to say. I loved this book a lot. It's authentic Canadian pioneer days, gold rush stuff, and it's got the meter of Scottish drinking songs. I read quite a lot of it out loud -- couldn't help it, it begs to be...more

interesting view of life in the Yukon. Gritty at times. I liked best the poems about nature, but the story poems were interesting too.

Great poems!

Check it out, some poetry that I really like! What?! It probably helped that this poet was actually the inspiration behind The Great Alone, and this set of poems, while not all of them were about Alaska or the Yukon, always evoked so much imagery and just really appealed to my vagabond heart.

The Spell of the Yukon
I wanted the gold, and I sought it;
I scrabbled and mucked like a slave.
Was it famine or scurvy—I 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 life’s not what I thought it,
And somehow the gold is...more

Rarely is there a book I'd read again... and again. Rarely is there a book I would purchase in hardcopy, just to have on my bookshelf as a treasure - I'm a library book and online audiobook reader.

I usually struggle with poetry; it's not my favourite style of writing or go-to choice for reading....more

The collection of poetry is very, very dear to my heart. My father owned this book, and despite its weight, carried it with him any time he went rock climbing or back packing. Later, when we were children sitting at the campfire Dad would recite the longer poems to us- Cremation of Sam McGee, Sp...more

A poet of such power and simplicity deserves better than the long-winded analysis elsewhere. Service is funny, earthy, and a great writer.
"The cremation of Dan McGee" is one of the best poems ever.."The Northern Lights have seen queer sights, but the queerest they ever did see..."

A must read for everyone who has lived in Alaska or the Yukon. This is our poetry legacy.

Excellent Poems from the Yukon

I discovered this little book in a bookstore in Whitehorse. That was back in 1996, 100 years after the Klondike gold rush. I hauled it, together with a bunch of other books, over the Chilkoot Pass. I read it in during the long nights lit by the midnight sun. It was w...more

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