21 November 2013

Poetry Thursday - My Cuckoo Clock by Robert W. Service

My Cuckoo Clock
I bought a cuckoo clock
And glad was I
To hear its tick and tock,
Its dulcet cry.
But Jones, whose wife is young
And pretty too,
Winced when that bird gave tongue:
Cuckoo! Cuckoo!

I have a lady friend
Whom I would wed,
For dalliance should end
In bridal bed.
Until the thought occurred:
Can she be true?
And then I heard that bird:
Cuckoo! Cuckoo!

Though ignorance is bliss
And love be blind,
Faithless may be the kiss
Of womankind.
So now sweet echoes mock
My wish to woo:
Confound that cursed clock!
Cuckoo! Cuckoo! 
Robert W Service (1874-1958) is sometimes called "the Bard of the Yukon" - he went to the west of North America with dreams of becoming a cowboy, and after travelling round doing various jobs he ended up working for a bank in Whitehorse in 1904. The town had begun as a campground for prospectors in 1897, lured up north by the hope of finding gold. The paystreak that Service worked was to mine the legends of the gold rush - with poems like "The Cremation of Sam McGee" and "The Shooting of Dan McGrew", which he recited at concerts. It seems that a line would come into his mind, which would be the start of an entire poem, written overnight or composed during a long walk in the woods. The first book of collected poems, Songs of a Sourdough, was an immediate success and went through seven printings before its official release date, and many thereafter - earning him a total of $2.5million in today's money.

Service wrote much more poetry; novels, especially thrillers; and later, two volumes of autobiography. He lived in Paris and Brittany and wintered in Nice. Visiting Russia at the time of the Hitler-Stalin pact, he had to flee and later to leave France - during the occupation, German soldiers came to his house looking for the poet who had mocked Hitler in verses published in newspapers. He went to California, entertained the troops by reciting his poems, and played himself in The Spoilers (1942), including a scene with Marlene Dietrich. With his wife and daughter he visited the Yukon in 1946, but he wouldn't return to Dawson City, where he had lived from 1909 to 1912, preferring to remember it as it had been. 

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