Pedlar

Robert William Service 1874 – 1958

Pedlar's coming down the street,
Housewives beat a swift retreat.
Don't you answer to the bell;
Heedless what she has to sell.
Just discreetly go inside.
We must hang a board, I fear:
PEDLARS NOT PERMITTED HERE.

I'm trying to sell what nobody wants to buy;
They turn me away, but still I try and try.
My arms are aching and my feet are sore;
Heartsick and worn I drag from door to door.
I ring bells, meekly knock, hold out my tray,
But no one answers, so I go away.
I am so weary; oh, I want to cry,
Trying to sell what no one wants to buy.

I do not blame them. Maybe in their place
I'd slam the door shut in a pedlar's face.
I don not know; perhaps I'd raise their hopes
By looking at their pens and envelopes,
Their pins and needles, pencils, spools of thread,
Cheap tawdry stuff, before I shake my head
And go back to my cosy kitchen nook
Without another thought or backward look.
I would not see their pain nor hear their sigh,
Trying to sell what no one wants to buy.

I know I am a nuisance. I can see
They only buy because they pity me.
They may . . . I've had a cottage of my own,
A husband, children - now I am alone,
Friendless in all the world. The bitter years
Have crushed me, robbed me of my dears.
All, all I've lost, my only wish to die,
Selling my trash that no one wants to buy.

Pedlar's beating a retreat -
Poor old thing, her face is sweet,
her figure frail, her hair snow-white;
Dogone it! Every door's shut tight. . . .
"Say, Ma, how much for all you've got?
Hell, here's ten bucks . . . I'll take the lot.
Go, get yourself a proper feed,
A little of the rest you need.
I've got a mother looks like you -
I'd hate her doing what you do. . . .
No, don't get sloppy, can the mush,
Praying for me - all that slush;
But please don't come again this way,
Ten bucks is all I draw a day."

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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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    "Pedlar" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 28 Sep. 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/32356/pedlar>.

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