“There's a whisper on the night-wind, there's a star agleam to guide us, And the Wild is calling, calling...let us go” - (from The Call of the Wild).
Songs of a Sourdough is a collection of verses telling tales of the characters of the Canadian West and Klondike Gold Rush. Robert Service’s ballads earned him the nickname ‘the Canadian Kipling’.
Robert W. Service, born in Lancashire in 1874, was working for the Imperial Bank of Canada when he was posted to Yukon in 1904. He was inspired by the sounds of revelry coming from a local saloon and composed his first ballad: ‘The Shooting of Dan McGrew’. ‘The Cremation of Sam McGee’ followed, based on a gold rush yarn he heard from a Dawson mining man about a fellow who cremated his pal.
Songs of a Sourdough, which contains over 30 ballads, was an immediate success. The literary set sneered at his popular style, but he never claimed to be a poet. He preferred to write ‘something the man in the street would take notice of and the sweet old lady would paste in her album; something the schoolboy would spout and the fellow in the pub would quote’.