Portent



Courage mes gars:
La guerre est proche.

I plant my little plot of beans,
I sit beneath my cyprus tree;
I do not know what trouble means,
I cultivate tranquillity . . .
But as to-day my walk I made
In all serenity and cheer,
I saw cut in an agave blade:
"Courage, my comrades, war is near!"

Seward I went, my feet were slow,
Awhile I dowsed upon the shore;
And then I roused with fear for lo!
I saw six grisly ships of war.
A grim, grey line of might and dread
Against the skyline looming sheer:
With horror to myself I said:
"Courage, my comrades, war is near!"

I saw my cottage on the hill
With rambling roses round the door;
It was so peaceful and so still
I sighed . . . and then it was no more.
A flash of flame, a rubble heap;
I cried aloud with woe and fear . . .
And wok myself from troubled sleep -
My home was safe, war was not near.

Oh, I am old, my step is frail,
My carcase bears a score of scars,
And as I climbed my homeward trail
Sadly I thought of other wars.
And when that agave leaf I saw
With vicious knife I made a blear
Of words clean-cut into the raw:
"Courage, my comrades, war is near!"

Who put hem there I do not know -
One of these rabid reds, no doubt;
But I for freedom struck my blow,
With bitter blade I scraped them out.
There now, said I, I will forget,
And smoke my pipe and drink my beer -
Yet in my mind these words were set:
"Courage, my comrades, war is near!"

"Courage, my comrades, war is near!"
I hear afar its hateful drums;
Its horrid din assails my ear:
I hope I die before it comes. . . .
Yet as into the town I go,
And listen to the rabble cheer,
I think with heart of weary woe:
War is not coming - WAR IS HERE.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

Modified on March 05, 2023

1:40 min read
117

Quick analysis:

Scheme ax bcbddedE fgfgdedE hghgieie jajxxcxE fdfddedE Eklkfefl
Closest metre Iambic tetrameter
Characters 1,616
Words 339
Stanzas 7
Stanza Lengths 2, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8

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…

All Robert William Service poems | Robert William Service Books

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