Reverence

Robert William Service 1874 – 1958

I saw the Greatest Man on Earth,
Aye, saw him with my proper eyes.
A loin-cloth spanned his proper girth,
But he was naked otherwise,
Excepting for his grey sombrero;
And when his domelike head he bared,
With reverence I stared and stared,
As mummified as any Pharaoh.

He leaned upon a little cane,
A big cigar was in his mouth;
Through spectacles of yellow stain
He gazed and gazed toward the South;
And then he dived into the sea,
As if to Corsica to swim;
His side stroke was so strong and free
I could not help but envy him.

A fitter man than I, I said,
Although his age is more than mine;
And I was strangely comforted
To see him battle in the brine.
Thought I: We have no cause for sorrow;
For one so dynamic to-day
Will gird him for the future fray
And lead us lion-like to-morrow.

The Greatest Man in all the world
Lay lazing like you or me,
Within a flimsy bathrobe curled
Upon a mattress by the sea:
He reached to pat a tou-tou's nose,
And scratched his torso now and then,
And scribbled with a fountain pen
What I assumed was jewelled prose.

And then methought he looked at me,
And hailed me with a gesture grand;
His fingers made the letter "V,"
So I, too, went to raise my hand; -
When nigh to me the barman glided
With liquid gold, and then I knew
He merely called for cock-tails two,
And so abjectly I subsided.

Yet I have had my moment's glory,
A-squatting nigh that Mighty Tory,
Proud Hero of our Island Story.

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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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"Reverence" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 13 Aug. 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/32399/reverence>.

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