Florentine Pilgrim

Robert William Service 1874 – 1958

"I'll do the old dump in a day,"
He told me in his brittle way.
"Two more, I guess, I'll give to Rome
Before I hit the trail for home;
But while I'm there I kindo' hope
To have an audience with the Pope."

We stood upon the terraced height
With sunny Florence in our sight.
I gazed and gazed, too moved to speak
Until he queried: "What's that creek?"
"The Arno, sir," I said surprised;
He stared at it with empty eyes.

"It is," said I, "the storied stream
Where Dante used to pace and dream,
And wait for Beatrice to pass."
(Oh how I felt a silly ass
Explaining this.) With eyes remote
He asked: "Was Beatrice a boat?"

Then tranced by far Fiesole
Softly I sought to steal away;
But his adhesiveness was grim,
I could not pry apart from him:
And so in our hotel-ward walk
Meekly I listened to his talk.

"Bologna! Say, the lunch was swell;
Them wops know how to feed you well.
Verona! There I met a blonde"
Oh how that baby could respond!
Siena! That's the old burg where
We soused on Asti in the square.

"Antiquity! Why, that's the bunk -
Statues and all that mouldy junk
Will never get you anywhere . . .
My line is ladies' underware,
And better than a dozen Dantes
Is something cute in female scanties. . . .

"One day in Florence is too small
You think, maybe, to see it all.
Well, it don't matter what you've seen -
The thing is: you can say you've been."

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Robert William Service

Robert William Service was a poet and writer sometimes referred to as the Bard of the Yukon He is best-known for his writings on the Canadian North including the poems The Shooting of Dan McGrew The Law of the Yukon and The Cremation of Sam McGee His writing was so expressive that his readers took him for a hard-bitten old Klondike prospector not the later-arriving bank clerk he actually was Robert William Service was born 16 January 1874 in Preston England but also lived in Scotland before emigrating to Canada in 1894 Service went to the Yukon Territory in 1904 as a bank clerk and became famous for his poems about this region which are mostly in his first two books of poetry He wrote quite a bit of prose as well and worked as a reporter for some time but those writings are not nearly as well known as his poems He travelled around the world quite a bit and narrowly escaped from France at the beginning of the Second World War during which time he lived in Hollywood California He died 11 September 1958 in France Incidentally he played himself in a movie called The Spoilers starring John Wayne and Marlene Dietrich more…

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"Florentine Pilgrim" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 7 Aug. 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/32126/florentine-pilgrim>.

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