The Rover


    Oh, how good it is to be
    Foot-loose and heart-free!
    Just my dog and pipe and I, underneath the vast sky;
    Trail to try and goal to win, white road and cool inn;
    Fields to lure a lad afar, clear spring and still star;
    Lilting feet that never tire, green dingle, fagot fire;
    None to hurry, none to hold, heather hill and hushed fold;
    Nature like a picture book, laughing leaf and bright brook;
    Every day a jewel bright, set serenely in the night;
    Every night a holy shrine, radiant for a day divine.

    Weathered cheek and kindly eye, let the wanderer go by.
    Woman-love and wistful heart, let the gipsy one depart.
    For the farness and the road are his glory and his goad.
    Oh, the lilt of youth and Spring! Eyes laugh and lips sing.
    Yea, but it is good to be
    Foot-loose and heart-free!


    Yet how good it is to come
    Home at last, home, home!
    On the clover swings the bee, overhead's the hale tree;
    Sky of turquoise gleams through, yonder glints the lake's blue.
    In a hammock let's swing, weary of wandering;
    Tired of wild, uncertain lands, strange faces, faint hands.

    Has the wondrous world gone cold? Am I growing old, old?
    Grey and weary . . . let me dream, glide on the tranquil stream.
    Oh, what joyous days I've had, full, fervid, gay, glad!
    Yet there comes a subtile change, let the stripling rove, range.
    From sweet roving comes sweet rest, after all, home's best.
    And if there's a little bit of woman-love with it,
    I will count my life content, God-blest and well spent. . . .
    Oh but it is good to be
    Foot-loose and heart-free!
    Yet how good it is to come
    Home at last, home, home!

    Robert William Service (1874-1958)

Known as "the Canadian Kipling," Robert Service was really born in Lancashire, England and moved to Canada in 1894 at the age of 15 where he joined his younger brother in experimental ranching. The life of a farmer in British Columbia was dissappointing and after 18 months he set off for California. For six years he wandering up and down the Pacific coast spending a great geal of his time time reading and dreaming and inspired, as he wrote once, by his surroundings.

He eventually decided to write a novel about the Gold Rush. As research he travelled along the Klondike River visiting the famous gold sites and boom towns; talking to those who had settled in the area during 1898 and studied all he could find on the subject. He enjoyed a bohemian sort of life and composed a large amount of poetry. Using rolls of wallpaper and a large pencil, he toiled over each verse, dragging them to the surface of his mind, he would stand in the cabin and look at his lines on the wall, pace back and forth, change a word or two, go for walks or rides on his bicycle then come back to look at the wallpaper. He completed Rhymes of a Rolling Stone by 1912 and enlisted in the Balkan War as a war correspondent.

In the 20th century, perhaps no poet wrote and abundance of popular wandering songs than Robert Service. The Rover from Rhymes of a Rolling Stone, is in many ways an appropriate vagabond song depicting both sides of the travelling man's motivation: wanderlust and homesickness.

for thefez


Bram, Robert Philips, Norma H. Dicky, "Service, Robert " Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia , 1988.

Public domain text taken from The Poets’ Corner:

CST Approved.

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