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The Cremation Of Sam Mcgee - Poem by Robert William Service

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.

Now Sam McGee was from Tennessee, where the cotton blooms and blows.
Why he left his home in the South to roam 'round the Pole, God only knows.
He was always cold, but the land of gold seemed to hold him like a spell;
Though he'd often say in his homely way that he'd "sooner live in hell".

On a Christmas Day we were mushing our way over the Dawson trail.
Talk of your cold! through the parka's fold it stabbed like a driven nail.
If our eyes we'd close, then the lashes froze till sometimes we couldn't see;
It wasn't much fun, but the only one to whimper was Sam McGee.

And that very night, as we lay packed tight in our robes beneath the snow,
And the dogs were fed, and the stars o'erhead were dancing heel and toe,
He turned to me, and "Cap," says he, "I'll cash in this trip, I guess;
And if I do, I'm asking that you won't refuse my last request."

Well, he seemed so low that I couldn't say no; then he says with a sort of moan:
"It's the cursed cold, and it's got right hold till I'm chilled clean through to the bone.
Yet 'tain't being dead -- it's my awful dread of the icy grave that pains;
So I want you to swear that, foul or fair, you'll cremate my last remains."

A pal's last need is a thing to heed, so I swore I would not fail;
And we started on at the streak of dawn; but God! he looked ghastly pale.
He crouched on the sleigh, and he raved all day of his home in Tennessee;
And before nightfall a corpse was all that was left of Sam McGee.

There wasn't a breath in that land of death, and I hurried, horror-driven,
With a corpse half hid that I couldn't get rid, because of a promise given;
It was lashed to the sleigh, and it seemed to say:
"You may tax your brawn and brains,
But you promised true, and it's up to you to cremate those last remains."

Now a promise made is a debt unpaid, and the trail has its own stern code.
In the days to come, though my lips were dumb, in my heart how I cursed that load.
In the long, long night, by the lone firelight, while the huskies, round in a ring,
Howled out their woes to the homeless snows -- O God! how I loathed the thing.

And every day that quiet clay seemed to heavy and heavier grow;
And on I went, though the dogs were spent and the grub was getting low;
The trail was bad, and I felt half mad, but I swore I would not give in;
And I'd often sing to the hateful thing, and it hearkened with a grin.

Till I came to the marge of Lake Lebarge, and a derelict there lay;
It was jammed in the ice, but I saw in a trice it was called the "Alice May".
And I looked at it, and I thought a bit, and I looked at my frozen chum;
Then "Here," said I, with a sudden cry, "is my cre-ma-tor-eum."

Some planks I tore from the cabin floor, and I lit the boiler fire;
Some coal I found that was lying around, and I heaped the fuel higher;
The flames just soared, and the furnace roared -- such a blaze you seldom see;
And I burrowed a hole in the glowing coal, and I stuffed in Sam McGee.

Then I made a hike, for I didn't like to hear him sizzle so;
And the heavens scowled, and the huskies howled, and the wind began to blow.
It was icy cold, but the hot sweat rolled down my cheeks, and I don't know why;
And the greasy smoke in an inky cloak went streaking down the sky.

I do not know how long in the snow I wrestled with grisly fear;
But the stars came out and they danced about ere again I ventured near;
I was sick with dread, but I bravely said: "I'll just take a peep inside.
I guess he's cooked, and it's time I looked"; . . . then the door I opened wide.

And there sat Sam, looking cool and calm, in the heart of the furnace roar;
And he wore a smile you could see a mile, and he said: "Please close that door.
It's fine in here, but I greatly fear you'll let in the cold and storm --
Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee, it's the first time I've been warm."

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.

Comments about The Cremation Of Sam Mcgee by Robert William Service

  • Gold Star - 36,928 Points * Sunprincess * (6/22/2014 7:40:00 PM)

    .......loved reading this write.....for a minute I almost thought this was a true story...enjoyed the whole poem but the ending was especially captivating.... (Report) Reply

    11 person liked.
    14 person did not like.
  • Gold Star - 70,270 Points Gajanan Mishra (6/18/2014 8:34:00 PM)

    strange things in midnight sun, thanks. (Report) Reply

  • Freshman - 826 Points Birgitta Abimbola Heikka (6/18/2014 6:23:00 PM)

    Very enjoyable and interesting poem. (Report) Reply

Read all 27 comments »

Poems About Humor

  1. 1. The Cremation Of Sam Mcgee , Robert William Service
  2. 2. Egotist , Ambrose Bierce
  3. 3. The Bachelor's Soliloquy , Edgar Albert Guest
  4. 4. Father William , Lewis Carroll
  5. 5. To A Louse , Robert Burns
  6. 6. George , Hilaire Belloc
  7. 7. A Ballade Of An Anti-Puritan , Gilbert Keith Chesterton
  8. 8. The Latest Decalogue , Arthur Hugh Clough
  9. 9. Confirmation , Paul Laurence Dunbar
  10. 10. How Little Red Riding Hood Came To Be Ea.. , Guy Wetmore Carryl
  11. 11. An Epitaph , Matthew Prior
  12. 12. John Barleycorn: A Ballad , Robert Burns
  13. 13. Fifi Gets Put Into Timeout , Dave Malone
  14. 14. The Freshman's Soliloquy , Ozora Stearns Davis
  15. 15. Matilda Who Told Lies, And Was Burned To.. , Hilaire Belloc
  16. 16. The Twelve Months , George Ellis
  17. 17. Jest 'Fore Christmas , Eugene Field
  18. 18. Hymn To The Belly , Ben Jonson
  19. 19. I'Ll Tell Thee Everything I Can , Lewis Carroll
  20. 20. The Yarn Of The Nancy Bell , William Schwenck Gilbert
  21. 21. The Cow , Oliver Herford
  22. 22. Casey At The Bat , Ernest Lawrence Thayer
  23. 23. An Elegy On The Death Of A Mad Dog , Oliver Goldsmith
  24. 24. The Platypus , Oliver Herford
  25. 25. The Nameless Maiden , Anonymous
  26. 26. A Word To Husbands , Ogden Nash
  27. 27. Lord Lundy , Hilaire Belloc
  28. 28. The Embarrasing Episode Of Little Miss M.. , Guy Wetmore Carryl
  29. 29. At The Club , Richard Hovey
  30. 30. The Glove And The Lions , James Henry Leigh Hunt
  31. 31. The Long-Nosed Fair , Christopher Smart
  32. 32. The Purple Cow , Gelett Burgess
  33. 33. Rebecca , Hilaire Belloc
  34. 34. The Twins , Henry Sambrooke Leigh
  35. 35. Little Lessons , Anonymous
  36. 36. Gentle Alice Brown , William Schwenck Gilbert
  37. 37. The Manlet , Lewis Carroll
  38. 38. A Reasonable Affliction , Matthew Prior
  39. 39. Evolution , Langdon Smith
  40. 40. On A Tired Housewife , Anonymous
  41. 41. ‘early To Bed' , Mary Mapes Dodge
  42. 42. How Beauty Contrived To Get Square With .. , Guy Wetmore Carryl
  43. 43. A Bubble , Ambrose Bierce
  44. 44. Pan In Wall Street , Edmund Clarence Stedman
  45. 45. Table Manners , Gelett Burgess
  46. 46. Where's The Poker? , Christopher Smart
  47. 47. Maternity , Robert William Service
  48. 48. Lord Roehampton , Hilaire Belloc
  49. 49. Size And Tears , Lewis Carroll
  50. 50. The Owl And The Pussy-Cat , Edward Lear
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