by Robert William Service
You see that sheaf of slender books
Upon the topmost shelf,
At which no browser ever looks,
Because they're by . . . myself;
They're neatly bound in navy blue,
But no one ever heeds;
Their print is clear and candid too,
Yet no one ever reads.
Poor wistful books! How much they cost
To me in time and gold!
I count them now as labour lost,
For none I ever sold;
No copy could I give away,
For all my friends would shrink,
And look at me as if to say:
"What waste of printer's ink!"
And as I gaze at them on high,
Although my eyes are sad,
I cannot help but breathe a sigh
To think what joy I had -
What ecstasy as I would seek
To make my rhyme come right,
And find at last the phrase unique
Flash fulgent in my sight.
Maybe that rapture was my gain
Far more than cheap success;
So I'll forget my striving vain,
And blot out bitterness.
Oh records of my radiant youth,
No broken heart I'll rue,
For all my best of love and truth
Is there, alive in you.
A minor irony of this poem is that Robert William Service, the Bard of the Yukon, wrote what has turned out to be the single best-selling book of poetry published in the twentieth century, Songs of a Sourdough. As far as I am aware, no other book of poetry published in the twentieth century has come close to it. There are a number of famous poems in that book, but the single most famous is "The Cremation of Sam McGee". You can listen to Johnny Cash recite that poem here,and you can listen to Robert W. Service himself recite it here. Both are quite good, although very different readings; but if you listen to one, you have to at least listen to Service's, which is in full story-telling style.