At an elegant formal state dinner, two icons of world statesmanship in the 20th century huddled at the head table. Ronald Reagan, and British Prime minister Margaret Thatcher were engrossed in deep conversation oblivious to others or the protocols of the occasion. Obviously they were working out solutions to the world’s problems, great issues and momentous decisions.

Or perhaps something even more gripping. They were quoting their favorite passages from Robert Service’s poetry; including his two classics, “The Cremation of Sam McGee, and “The Shooting of Dan McGrew.”

Robert Services was never poet laurite, never won a Nobel Prize for literature, is never ranked with William Shakespeare, Lord Byron, or Emily Dickinson, rarely mentioned in university literary texts or classes. He is only memorized and quoted by the literary blue collar set including your occasional president, prime minister and perhaps king.

Robert Service can also be a thorn in the side of those of us who agonize over our phrases and remember Mark Twain’s sage observation, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightening and the lightening bug.”

Service would often saunter off on a stroll and come back casually with a pocketful of poems. It seemed he could exhale his verse as easily as exhaling his breath. He would see a scene or think a thought or remember a story and the words would practically leap up, organize themselves in ordered ranks and stand saluting him. It was unjust

He also enjoyed a rather pleasant and profitable stroll through life. He tromped over his boyhood home Scotland, then England, Canada, Alaska, and the American Southwest. He was a favorite of the Hollywood set during his sojourn there leaving other poets to exclaim unpoetically “Aaaargh, if only…”

I was filling an assignment for a speech class in high school, as usual plotting to do the least work for the most grade. I chose to read Sam McGee because it was shorter than many poems and had no hard words or subtle innuendos the teacher Mr. Williams would make me deal with. I read through the poem once, got hooked, memorized it and flabbergasted Mr. Williams and the speech class the next day (And got a rare “A”). The poem has been my companion since. I am here reprising my high school performance using the insight, experience and aged look I had to fake back then.

To maintain the literature motif, we might say this is a poem for all seasons. In the summer, chill out with the first part of the poem, in the winter warm up to the last part, and on gloomy days in any season chuckle with the story.

One word of caution, don’t try this at home.

At an elegant formal state dinner, two icons of world statesmanship in the 20th century huddled at the head table. Ronald Reagan, and British Prime minister Margaret Thatcher were engrossed in deep conversation oblivious to others or the protocols of the occasion. Obviously they were working out solutions to the world’s problems, great issues and momentous decisions.

Or perhaps something even more gripping. They were quoting their favorite passages from Robert Service’s poetry; including his two classics, “The Cremation of Sam McGee, and “The Shooting of Dan McGrew.”

Robert Services was never poet laurite, never won a Nobel Prize for literature, is never ranked with William Shakespeare, Lord Byron, or Emily Dickinson, rarely mentioned in university literary texts or classes. He is only memorized and quoted by the literary blue collar set including your occasional president, prime minister and perhaps king.

Robert Service can also be a thorn in the side of those of us who agonize over our phrases and remember Mark Twain’s sage observation, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightening and the lightening bug.”

Service would often saunter off on a stroll and come back casually with a pocketful of poems. It seemed he could exhale his verse as easily as exhaling his breath. He would see a scene or think a thought or remember a story and the words would practically leap up, organize themselves in ordered ranks and stand saluting him. It was unjust

He also enjoyed a rather pleasant and profitable stroll through life. He tromped over his boyhood home Scotland, then England, Canada, Alaska, and the American Southwest. He was a favorite of the Hollywood set during his sojourn there leaving other poets to exclaim unpoetically “Aaaargh, if only…”

I was filling an assignment for a speech class in high school, as usual plotting to do the least work for the most grade. I chose to read Sam McGee because it was shorter than many poems and had no hard words or subtle innuendos the teacher Mr. Williams would make me deal with. I read through the poem once, got hooked, memorized it and flabbergasted Mr. Williams and the speech class the next day (And got a rare “A”). The poem has been my companion since. I am here reprising my high school performance using the insight, experience and aged look I had to fake back then.

To maintain the literature motif, we might say this is a poem for all seasons. In the summer, chill out with the first part of the poem, in the winter warm up to the last part, and on gloomy days in any season chuckle with the story.

One word of caution, don’t try this at home.

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