The Spell of the Yukon

27 12 2012

Spell of the YukonThere is snow on all the trees in my hamlet this evening.  The ground is insulated with over a foot of new, white powder.  Winter has finally arrived.  There is something about the cold that is at once frightening and peaceful. There are few things that invigorate the soul like walking at night with the chill, Arctic air in your face.  You move forward, face to the wind, keeping the pace.

This poem by Robert Service describes both the pursuit of gold that drew men into the cold to seek their fortunes, and the rugged Yukon.  Somehow the seeking and struggle ended up being more valuable to these sturdy men than the precious metal.  Stillness, chill, perspective, and peace.

The Law of the Yukon

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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4 responses

27 12 2012
Jennifer Stuart

Wow, I feel like that poem works on so many levels as well.
“Yet it isn’t the gold that I’m wanting
So much as just finding the gold.”
I feel like that is true for so many things that we chase after in life, trying to reach a sort of peace. Often times the peace and vastness before us on a quest is the truly magical part, even the distance between a current state and a state we are striving for. There is always that stillness and vastness when we access it.
That picture is beautiful, there is really nothing like that view!

28 12 2012
Christian Fahey

Thank you Jennifer! Service has a way of stretching the soul and seeing to the heart of things as well. Indeed, it is a beautiful picture. Thanks for reading!

28 12 2012
David Kanigan

Loved it Christian. Happy New Year to you and your family. Dave

28 12 2012
Christian Fahey

Thank you David. Service’s poetry has always inspired and invigorated. Happy New Year to you and yours as well my friend!

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