Saturday, November 15, 2008

A different train of thought....

I was wondering around in blogland one day and came across someone's photo of their Alaska books...so it got me to thinking. I have a stash of books about the north country; at least that is what I call it. I am not sure when I developed this obsession. I really am not. I cannot remember if it started with Tisha by Robert Specht as told by Anne Hobbs. (By the way, it is a true story.) I know it was one of the first books I ever read about Alaska...
Or it might have started with an old movie I caught on television called O Rugged Land of Gold. The next time I was at the library, I did a search and they had the book....again a true story, written by Martha Martin. Whichever started my obsession, it is one I really enjoy. I have not read all of the Robert W. Service poems--at least not at one sitting. I tend to pick them up and read a poem or two when I am in the mood. Also not read at one sitting, but I pick up and read bits and pieces in the Biographies of the Alaska/Yukon. And I have not read Innocent in Alaska...not sure why. I do keep forgetting I have it. It will do for some winter reading.
But I have read all the others, most of which are nonfiction...and several of them I have read numerous times. And will probably read a few more times in my lifetime.

Then there is probably my favorite poem of all time...it is long, but I ask you to please read it through. I was browsing in the bookstore one time and picked up a book of poetry...I was looking for another poem and happened to come across The Spell of the Yukon by Robert W. Service...I had tears come to my eyes by the time I read it through...I thought it so beautiful. I cannot pick a favorite verse, but oh the last one just grabs my heart so. So I hope you read it and enjoy it just a tiny bit...

The Spell of the Yukon

Robert W. Service

1874--1958
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 isn't all.

No! There's the land. (Have you seen it?)
It's the cussedest land that I know,
From the big, dizzy mountains that screen it
To the deep, deathlike valleys below.
Some say God was tired when He made it;
Some say it's a fine land to shun;
Maybe; but there's some as would trade it
For no land on earth -- and I'm one.

You come to get rich (damned good reason);
You feel like an exile at first;
You hate it like hell for a season,
And then you are worse than the worst.
It grips you like some kinds of sinning;
It twists you from foe to a friend;
It seems it's been since the beginning;
It seems it will be to the end.

I've stood in some mighty-mouthed hollow
That's plumb-full of hush to the brim;
I've watched the big, husky sun wallow
In crimson and gold, and grow dim,
Till the moon set the pearly peaks gleaming,
And the stars tumbled out, neck and crop;
And I've thought that I surely was dreaming,
With the peace o' the world piled on top.

The summer -- no sweeter was ever;
The sunshiny woods all athrill;
The grayling aleap in the river,
The bighorn asleep on the hill.
The strong life that never knows harness;
The wilds where the caribou call;
The freshness, the freedom, the farness --
O God! how I'm stuck on it all.

The winter! the brightness that blinds you,
The white land locked tight as a drum,
The cold fear that follows and finds you,
The silence that bludgeons you dumb.
The snows that are older than history,
The woods where the weird shadows slant;
The stillness, the moonlight, the mystery,
I've bade 'em good-by -- but I can't.

There's a land where the mountains are nameless,
And the rivers all run God knows where;
There are lives that are erring and aimless,
And deaths that just hang by a hair;
There are hardships that nobody reckons;
There are valleys unpeopled and still;
There's a land -- oh, it beckons and beckons,
And I want to go back -- and I will.

They're making my money diminish;
I'm sick of the taste of champagne.
Thank God! when I'm skinned to a finish
I'll pike to the Yukon again.
I'll fight -- and you bet it's no sham-fight;
It's hell! -- but I've been there before;
And it's better than this by a damsite --
So me for the Yukon once more.

There's gold, and it's haunting and haunting;
It's luring me on as of old;
Yet it isn't the gold that I'm wanting
So much as just finding the gold.

It's the great, big, broad land 'way up yonder,
It's the forests where silence has lease;
It's the beauty that thrills me with wonder,
It's the stillness that fills me with peace.

7 comments:

Rose said...

I keep trying to remember what started this love of books about far North, and two others come to mind that might have started it...THE NORTH RUNNER by R. D. Lawrence or Mrs. Mike by Benedict and Nancy Freedman.

Your EG Tour Guide said...

I read the poem, Rose and I agree the last four lines are wonderful. The author truly loved the Yukon!

I've never been to the Yukon but in pictures it sure looks gorgeous.

Mary said...

I read through the whole poem and you just feel his love/hate relationship with the place. It must be a wonderful place despite the hardships, but it takes a special person to endure it and go back. I've read a few Alaskan based mysteries and I hear the same sort of feeling for the land.

don said...

A fine group of books and a more importantly, a lifetime of interest. The poem expresses so much of this almost love/hate relationship. A fine post!

The Tile Lady said...

My my! Rose--Mrs. Mike is a book you can find on my sidebar "List of Favorite Books!" I read it as a young teen and have read it numerous times since and have always loved it so much! I saw it in the photograph of your books, before I got to your comments when you mentioned it. I realize from the photo that there are a lot of books out there I should check with abebooks to get a copy of! (I buy used whenever I can!) I have always wanted to go to Canada and Alaska, mainly I guess because of Mrs. Mike, and I suppose I will get there one day.

The poem was very moving. It has such a ring of truth to it. I will have to read more of his poetry as well.

I'm just glad you decided to do something different and post this today!

Marie

Carletta said...

Lovely poem Rose!
I so would love to go to Alaska someday.
I agree - the last stanza is terrific.

TSannie said...

I had the great fortune of visiting Alaska once. Loved every minute of it and yearn to go back.
Thanks for sharing your bit.

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