I first came across Robert W. Service while I was in the Yukon.
I was in Dawson City’s visitor’s center looking around when a quote on the wall caught my eye. I don’t remember what it said, but I made a mental note to remember the name. Later in an antique store I happened across an old book of poems by the same name. By now you should know it’s Service I’m referring to.
I obviously bought the book because it was either that or somehow buy the original printing of Jack London’s The Call of the Wild for about $1,000 dollars I 100% did not have. (Why would I want to buy that, I don’t know, at this point I think it’s just who I am as a person. If it’s old and a book, I want it.)
For a storytelling class in college I had to pick a poem and recite it in class. I chose Pilgrims. It wasn’t until I was in class reciting it that I realized I was reading the poem all wrong, which is why I wasn’t reciting it the best I could have been. I focused too much on the thought of war. With a prompted question from my professor, I saw the true depth of the poem.
I believe I’ve rambled on long enough:
Pilgrims by Robert W. Service
For oh, when the war will be over
We’ll go and we’ll look for our dead;
We’ll go when the bee’s on the clover,
And the plume of the poppy is red:
We’ll go when the year’s at its gayest,
When meadows are laughing with flow’rs;
And there where the crosses are greyest,
We’ll seek for the cross that is ours.
For they cry to us: ‘Friends, we are lonely,
A-weary the night and the day;
But come in the blossom-time only,
Come when our graves will be gay:
When daffodils all are a-blowing,
And larks are a-thrilling the skies,
Oh, come with the hearts of you glowing,
And the joy of the Spring in your eyes.
‘But never, oh, never come sighing,
For ours was the Splendid Release;
And oh, but ’twas joy in the dying
To know we were winning you Peace!
So come when the valleys are sheening,
And fledged with the promise of grain;
And here where our graves will be greening,
Just smile and be happy again.’
And so, when the war will be over,
We’ll seek for the Wonderful One;
And maiden will look for her lover,
And mother will look for her son;
And there will be end to our grieving,
And gladness will gleam over loss,
As—glory beyond all believing!
We point . . . to a name on a cross.