There have been many a day, night, that this Robert Service poem kept me going.
Oh, I’m not talking about Dauntless, or challenges of the sea, that’s the easy stuff, as is a number of things I’ve done in my life,
No, I’m talking about the tough stuff, like having a small business, and dreading the call from the bank, in which I had to cover to checks before day’s end. Teaching, being in front of 30 kids, who while they do want to learn, being teenagers, they feel their job is to really make you earn it and if you don’t come up to their expectations, they will let you know in that cruel way only teenagers can do.
Being a principal of a school that was ultimately slated to close, that was full of adults who thought they had no responsibility for that outcome.
Robert Service came into my life, in 1985, when I had moved back to Alaska for the second time. Leonie and I took many trips to the end of the road: up the Haul Road to Prudhoe Bay; down the Alaska Highway to Dawson, in the Yukon and of course down the Steese Highway to Central (where two families got into a real gun shooting feud form their respective porches) and Circle Hot Springs, The road to the Kennecott Copper Mines, where one had to leave the car and pull yourself over a river sitting in a bucket and lastly, numerous drives, many late into the night between Anchorage and Fairbanks, sometimes with temperatures below minus 40° F &C, with the car losing oil every mile because the block could not warm up enough driving 70 mph at those temps.
So many a night, I would read this poem, knowing I had no choice but to press on, that the next day would be better, sometimes it was, sometimes not.
But, it got me here, and life couldn’t be better. So I’d thought I’d share.
|When you’re lost in the Wild, and you’re scared as a child,
And Death looks you bang in the eye,
And you’re sore as a boil, it’s according to Hoyle
To cock your revolver and . . . die.
But the Code of a Man says: “Fight all you can,”
And self-dissolution is barred.
In hunger and woe, oh, it’s easy to blow . . .
It’s the hell-served-for-breakfast that’s hard.
“You’re sick of the game!” Well, now that’s a shame.
You’re young and you’re brave and you’re bright.
“You’ve had a raw deal!” I know — but don’t squeal,
Buck up, do your damnedest, and fight.
It’s the plugging away that will win you the day,
So don’t be a piker, old pard!
Just draw on your grit, it’s so easy to quit.
It’s the keeping-your chin-up that’s hard.
It’s easy to cry that you’re beaten — and die;
It’s easy to crawfish and crawl;
But to fight and to fight when hope’s out of sight —
Why that’s the best game of them all!
And though you come out of each gruelling bout,
All broken and battered and scarred,
Just have one more try — it’s dead easy to die,
It’s the keeping-on-living that’s hard.
Rhymes of a Rolling Stones. Robert W. Service. Toronto: William Briggs, 1912; New York: Dodd Mead, 1912; London: Fisher Unwin, 1913.