The Heart of the Sourdough, a Poem About the Wild Yukon

The Heart of the Sourdough, a Poem About the Wild Yukon

Years ago, as a young Boy Scout summer camp employee, I memorized and recited wild poems by Robert W. Service (January 16, 1874 – September 11, 1958) at evening campfire programs to the delight of our campers.

Most popular were his first two poems, “The Shooting of Dan McGrew” and “The Cremation of Sam McGee.” Both were later published in his larger collection published as Songs of a Sourdoughwhere I found this wild, little gem that seems just right for this Halloween season along with the other two.

Wild Evening of Poems from Yesterday year

Why not enjoy a wild evening this Halloween taking turns reading these poems from a hundred years ago? Try this one first, then go back and have your most dramatic family members read the other two poems listed above. It will be great fun.

The Heart of the Sourdough
by Robert W. Service


There where the mighty mountains bare their fangs unto the moon,
There where the sullen sun-dogs glare
  in the snow-bright, bitter noon,
And the glacier-glutted streams sweep down
  at the clarion call of June.

There where the livid tundras keep
  their tryst with the tranquil snows;
There where the silences are spawned,
  and the light of hell-fire flows
Into the bowl of the midnight sky, violet, amber and rose.

There where the rapids churn and roar,
  and the ice-floes bellowing run;
Where the tortured, twisted rivers of blood
  rush to the setting sun —
I’ve packed my kit* and I’m going, boys, ere another day is done.

     * * * * *

I knew it would call, or soon or late,
  as it calls the whirring wings;
It’s the olden lure, it’s the golden lure,
  it’s the lure of the timeless things,
And to-night, oh, God of the trails untrod,
  how it whines in my heart-strings!

I’m sick to death of your well-groomed gods,
  your make believe and your show;
I long for a whiff of bacon and beans,
  a snug shakedown in the snow;
A trail to break, and a life at stake,
  and another bout with the foe.

With the raw-ribbed Wild that abhors all life,
  the Wild that would crush and rend,
I have clinched and closed with the naked North,
  I have learned to defy and defend;
Shoulder to shoulder we have fought it out —
  yet the Wild must win in the end.

I have flouted the Wild. I have followed its lure,
  fearless, familiar, alone;
By all that the battle means and makes
  I claim that land for mine own;
Yet the Wild must win, and a day will come
  when I shall be overthrown.

Then when as wolf-dogs fight we’ve fought,
  the lean wolf-land and I;
Fought and bled till the snows are red under the reeling sky;
Even as lean wolf-dog goes down will I go down and die.


Service has been rightly dubbed “the Bard of the Yukon” and rightly so, since he wrote so many popular poems about the Klondike Gold Rush in the Candian Northwest and Alaska.

What wild and scary tales of Sourdough can you share for Halloween?

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