About Robert W. ServiceRobert W. Service was a famous british-canadian poet and writer who has often been called the Bard of the Yukon. He is best known for his poems The Shooting of Dan McGrew and The Cremation of Sam McGee, from his first book, Songs of a Sourdough. Robert Service wrote the most commercially successful poetry of the century. Yet his most popular works were considered doggerel by the literary set. During his lifetime, he was nicknamed the Canadian Kipling. – yet that may have been a double-edged compliment. As T. S. Eliot has said: we have to defend Kipling against the charge of excessive lucidity, the charge of being a journalist appealing only to the commonest collective emotion, and the charge of writing jingles. All those charges, and more, could be levelled against Service's best known and best loved works.
His vivid descriptions of the Yukon and its people made it seem that he was a veteran of the Klondike gold rush, instead of the late-arriving bank clerk he actually was. These humorous tales in verse were considered doggerel by the literary set, yet remain extremely popular to this day. Here are featured a list of his most notarious and best poems he wrote during his lifetime. In his E. J. Pratt lecture Silence In the Sea, critic Northrop Frye argued that Service's verse was not serious poetry, but something else he called popular poetry: the idioms of popular and serious poetry remain inexorably distinct. Popular poems, he thought, preserve a surface of explicit statement – either being proverbial, like Kipling s If or Longfellow Song of Life or Burns's For A That, or dealing in conventionally poetic themes, like the pastoral themes of James Whitcomb Riley, or the adventurous themes of Robert Service.
Service himself did not call his work poetry. Verse, not poetry, is what I was after ... something the man in the street would take notice of and the sweet old lady would paste in her album; something the schoolboy would spout and the fellow in the pub would quote. Yet I never wrote to please anyone but myself; it just happened. I belonged to the simple folks whom I liked to please.
Browse all poems and texts published on Robert W. Service