Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The past comes back to haunt me

This post will not be as dramatic as the title sounds.

There I was, surfing along the internet, thinking that "The Cremation of Sam McGee" was just an obscure part of my strange childhood (well, no, to be perfectly honest, I wasn't thinking that when I ran across Kelly's post at Big A little a -- I wasn't thinking of Sam McGee at all, and haven't actually thought of him or Robert Service for years) when I encountered this book.

Strangely (almost twilight-zoneishly) I see that this poem has become a children's book. That it's been a children's book for 20 years. And that a 20th anniversary edition is now out. Well, now. Kelly gives it a fine review, and it does look as though it's beautifully illustrated. It even seems to be rather hip at the moment. But, as a child, I found this poem incomprehensible, frightening and bizarre. I can remember saying, "But Dad, if he's dead, why is he sitting up in the fire?" There was no one in this poem to whom I could relate (which was, to me, essential.) But then ... I'm a girl. As Becky points out in a comment on Kelly's post, Robert Service's poems are "a good way to get some poetry into boys." Yup.

I'm such a girl. I never really liked "Star Trek" either. Too many aliens to whom I couldn't relate. Sorry.


K said...

My 2nd daughter memorized this poem when she was just 10. It was is continues to be one of her favorites. Of course, she now, at 15 enjoys the scariest movies which may explain why she enjoyed this poem so much.

I will have to look out for this book!

Kelly said...

Hi Karen:

I could see how this book could frighten a squeamish child.

The title alone made me a little hesitant before picking it up.

That being said...I LOVED it and my 10-year-old daughter, who must have that sick sense of humor, did too :)

I'm totally with you on Star Trek, though. I've never seen a single episode all the way through. I just don't like space.

Karen Edmisten said...

I'm sure your daughter would love the book even now, K.

Kelly, I think I was about 7 when I first heard the poem .... and definitely a bit squeamish. :-)

Re. Star Trek -- the only movie I liked was the one in which they travelled back to the 20th century and had to save the whales ... it *was* funny to hear Mr. Spock attempt to use colorful language: "Excuse me, miss, but they are not the h*ll your whales."

Anonymous said...

Yep. This is one of only three poems I've ever heard my dad mention. (The others are Carl Sandburg's Fog and Tennyson's Crossing the Bar.) The dark humor and funny rhymes are so my dad.