Poetry Plus – Music in the Bush – A poem by Robert William Service

Music in the Bush by Robert William Service (Excerpt)

Shadows Death Robed Lie

Shadows death robed lie
Sorrow’s moonlit meadows sleep
Silence mourning weeps

Robert William Service, (1874 -1958) the renowned poet of the Yukon, was born in England, The son of a bank cashier, Service was the eldest of four siblings. At the age of five, Service went to Scotland to live with his grandfather and three young aunts.He rejoined his family in 1883 when they too moved to Scotland.

Service attended the University of Glasgow to study English Literature. He was quickly identified as one of the brightest in his class, though he also proved to be a bit audacious.

His essay on Ophelia’s questionable “purity” in Hamlet was received with disgust by his professor, who called Service’s interpretation of the text obscene. Not content with such a response, Service challenged the professor to a fight outside the classroom; the challenge was declined. After a year, the embittered young poet left the university.

Soon afterwards his interests realigned with his aims for adventure. His reading turned to Rudyard Kipling and Robert Louis Stevenson, and their stories of world explorers in search of fortune and, more important, their own identity.

In 1895, at the age of twenty-one, with a significant amount of savings, Robert announced his dream of going to Western Canada to become a cowboy. He soon set sail for Montreal with only his suitcase and a letter of reference from the bank where he had been working.

Upon arrival, Service took a train across Canada to Vancouver Island, where he lived for many years and gathered much of the material for what became his most celebrated poems.

Many of his experiences working on cowboy ranches, and the colourful personalities he met during his travels around the West, eventually found their place in his work.

Numerous publications followed, including Songs of a Sourdough, published in 1907, which won wide acclaim.

His forty-five verse collections accumulated over one thousand poems, the most famous of which include “The Cremation of Sam McGee,” “The Shooting of Dan McGrew,” and “The Men That Don’t Fit In.”

To add to his poetic output, Service wrote two autobiographies, Ploughman of the Moon (1945) and Harper of Heaven (1948), as well as six novels.

His poem about Dan McGrew and several of his novels were adapted to film. The poet himself managed even to garner an acting credit, appearing briefly opposite Marlene Dietrich in the 1942 movie The Spoilers.

Service is often referred to as “the Canadian Kipling” for rollicking ballads of the “frozen North”.

Service served as an ambulance driver during World War I, after which he published Rhymes of a Red Cross Man (Barse & Hopkins, 1916), a collection of mostly war poems.

By the end of his life, his prolific and prosperous career in poetry had earned him the distinction—as stated in an obituary in the Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph—as

“the people’s poet.”

Poem 1 Attribution © Robert William Service, Music in the Bush (Excerpt)

Source Attribution https://mypoeticside.com/show-classic-poem-26338

Haiku Attribution Goff James, Shadows Death Robed Lie

Copyright (c) 2021 Goff James – All Rights Reserved 

More senryū poems by Goff James

Bio Attribution Reference https://poets.org/poet/robert-w-service

Photo 1 Attribution © (Photographer Unstated), Robert William Service, c.1905

Source Attribution https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_W._Service#/media/File:Robert_W._Service.jpg

Painting Attribution © Auke Mulder, Great Silence, (Date Unstated)

Source Attribution https://www.saatchiart.com/art/Painting-Great-silence/289339/6629119/view

Poem 2 Attribution © Robert William Service, The Shooting of Dan McGrew

Video Attribution Mobilecheese

Source Attribution https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hqdL6bTiMhE

Music In The Bush by Robert William Service

O’er the dark pines she sees the silver moon,
And in the west, all tremulous, a star;
And soothing sweet she hears the mellow tune
Of cow-bells jangled in the fields afar.

Quite listless, for her daily stent is done,
She stands, sad exile, at her rose-wreathed door,
And sends her love eternal with the sun
That goes to gild the land she’ll see no more.

The grave, gaunt pines imprison her sad gaze,
All still the sky and darkling drearily;
She feels the chilly breath of dear, dead days
Come sifting through the alders eerily.

Oh, how the roses riot in their bloom!
The curtains stir as with an ancient pain;
Her old piano gleams from out the gloom
And waits and waits her tender touch in vain.

But now her hands like moonlight brush the keys
With velvet grace — melodious delight;
And now a sad refrain from over seas
Goes sobbing on the bosom of the night;

And now she sings. (O! singer in the gloom,
Voicing a sorrow we can ne’er express,
Here in the Farness where we few have room
Unshamed to show our love and tenderness,

Our hearts will echo, till they beat no more,
That song of sadness and of motherland;
And, stretched in deathless love to England’s shore,
Some day she’ll hearken and she’ll understand.)

A prima-donna in the shining past,
But now a mother growing old and gray,
She thinks of how she held a people fast
In thrall, and gleaned the triumphs of a day.

She sees a sea of faces like a dream;
She sees herself a queen of song once more;
She sees lips part in rapture, eyes agleam;
She sings as never once she sang before.

She sings a wild, sweet song that throbs with pain,
The added pain of life that transcends art —
A song of home, a deep, celestial strain,
The glorious swan-song of a dying heart.

A lame tramp comes along the railway track,
A grizzled dog whose day is nearly done;
He passes, pauses, then comes slowly back
And listens there — an audience of one.

She sings — her golden voice is passion-fraught,
As when she charmed a thousand eager ears;
He listens trembling, and she knows it not,
And down his hollow cheeks roll bitter tears.

She ceases and is still, as if to pray;
There is no sound, the stars are all alight —
Only a wretch who stumbles on his way,
Only a vagrant sobbing in the night.

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