Monday, December 22, 2008

Not that Cold

Last week I heard about the Monday Poetry Train Revisited and since then I have been trying to think of what I wanted to post today. I finally decided that I'd share an old poem that I hope everyone has read. And if you haven't read it, I hope you will.

When I was eleven I think I had some poetry assignments in school. After that, my dad (a true Renaissance man) tried to keep me interested in poetry and made sure there were books available to me. By the time I was in high school he was sharing some of his old books: one was a worn and already-starting-to-crumble paperback called American Ballads: Naughty Ribald and Classic. In it I found a couple poems of interest including one that told a fine story.

And so I was introduced to Robert W. Service. The poem was "The Cremation of Sam McGee," originally published in 1907. It begins:

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.

You can find the full text here and here. And for those with access to NPR (National Public Radio) you may be able click the link near the top of this page to hear the poem read aloud.

I like the tight internal rhymes and the way they make the story pull forward. And I happen to like snow, and most times I don't mind the cold (being someone who can appreciate the cycle of seasons). But I know I've never been as cold as Sam McGee. I hope you enjoy it too.


Linda Jacobs said...

I've always loved this poem, too! In fact I read it out loud to my school kids almost every year. Somehow, the word gets passed from class to class to ask Ms. Jacobs to read the poem about the guy with the frozen balls. Kids! Leave it to them to interpret it that way!

Happy Hanukkah!

sister AE said...

Hi, Linda. I'm guessing the potential morbidity factor was one of the reasons I liked it in high school, but I'm glad to say that the language is what keeps me entertained.

gel said...

Glad you shared an old favorite. Catchy poem. (here from P. Train.)

gel said...

forgot to add "Happy Channukkah". Last night my hubby was ill in bed, and to my embarrassment b/c our now athiest teen noticed, I forgot the blessing in the middle and improvised in "English"about human rights for all. Our daughter doesn't believe in the prayers, which I respect her rights; however she refused to correct my Hebrew that she knew. Still, I caught a smile creeping out of the sides of her mouth when I spoke of equal human rights, since she just marched twice for her beliefs in recent months.

sister AE said...

Thanks, gel!

gautami tripathy said...

It remember reading it. Thanks for jogging my memory! Welcome to MPTR!

all in a days work

sister AE said...

Thanks, gautami. And thanks for organizing this.