By Robert Service
Verses chronicling the Klondike gold rush and immortalizing the colourful characters of the Yukon Territory, selected from the author's prior collections "The spell of the Yukon" and "Ballads of a Cheechako".
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Why, I'm the wealthiest man on earth! No, don't you think that I'm off my base. You'll sing a different tune If only you'll let me spin my yarn Come over to this saloon; Wet my throatit's as dry as chalk, and seeing as how it's you, I'll tell the tale of a Northern trail, and so help me God, it's true. Page 37 I'll tell of the howling wilderness and the haggard Arctic heights, Of a reckless vow that I made, and how I staked the Northern Lights. Remember the year of the Big Stampede and the trail of 'Ninety-Eight?
And a gorge sheered up in granite walls, and the moose trail crept betwixt; 'Twas as is the earth had gaped too far and her stony jaws were fixt. Then the winter fell with a sudden swoop, and the heavy clouds sagged low, And earth and sky were blotted out in a whirl of driving snow. We were climbing up a glacier in the neck of a mountain pass, When the Dago Kid slipped down and fell into a deep crevasse. When we got him out, one leg hung limp, and his brow was wreathed with pain, And he says: '"Tis badly broken, boys, and I'll never walk again.
They haunted me, as wild and free I roamed from sun to sun; Until I came where sudden flame uplit a terraced height, A regnant peak that seemed to seek the coronal of night. "I scaled the peak; my heart was weak, yet on and on I pressed. Skyward I strained until I gained its dazzling silver crest; And there I found, with all around a world supine and stark, Swept clean of snow, a flat plateau, and on it laythe Ark. "Yes, there, I knew, by two and two the beasts did disembark, And so in haste I ran and traced in letters on the Ark My human nameBen Smith's the same.