Sunday, July 19, 2009 6:44:27 AM
Something brought to mind again Rbt. Service's "The Ballad of Blasphemous Bill". I've always enjoyed reading it aloud, and have always been aware of the verse's loose strictures of declamation.
(It's easy to get it wrong, to lose the rhythm…)
But something more important struck me, tonight. (I don't recall, if I'd noticed before –– certainly not, if this particular point stuck out…) The final 12 lines are –both in terms of the telling of the tale and by the poem's structure– anticlimactic.
Without evidence to support my view; indeed, without more than a moment's reflection… I'd say, this is unusual.
In the realms of verse and fiction, in general, the point is to be seen in the culmination of the work. And the point is –well– the point.
Oh, the awful hush that seemed to crush
Me down on every hand,
As I blundered blind with a trail to find
Through that blank and bitter land;
Half dazed, half crazed in the winter wild,
With its grim heart-breaking woes,
And the ruthless strife for a grip on life
That only the sourdough knows!
North by the compass, North I pressed;
River and peak and plain
Passed like a dream I slept to lose
And I waked to dream again.
River and plain and mighty peak --
And who could stand unawed?
As their summits blazed, he could stand undazed
At the foot of the throne of God.
North, aye, North, through a land accurst,
Shunned by the scouring brutes,
And all I heard was my own harsh word
And the whine of the malamutes,
Till at last I came to a cabin squat,
Built in the side of a hill,
And I burst in the door, and there on the floor,
Frozen to death, lay Bill.
So I buried him as the contract was
In a narrow grave and deep,
And there he's waiting the Great Clean-up,
When the Judgment sluice-heads sweep;
And I smoke my pipe and I meditate
In the light of the Midnight Sun,
And sometimes I wonder if they was,
The awful things I done.
And as I sit and the parson talks,
Expounding of the Law,
I often think of poor old Bill --
And how hard he was to saw.
My duty I've been pressed to do,
beyond my inclination…
But deals are made; and critics who
would save us from damnation
are unaware, the whence and when
our later recollection
affects the choices that we ken
are left to our discretion.