Poem of the day

The Spell of the Yukon
by Robert 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.

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