Manvotional: Call of the Wild

by Brett & Kate McKay on May 8, 2011 · 15 comments

in A Man's Life, Manvotionals

Call of the Wild

By: Robert W. Service

Have you gazed on naked grandeur
where there’s nothing else to gaze on,
Set pieces and drop-curtain scenes galore,
Big mountains heaved to heaven, which the
blinding sunsets blazon,
Black canyons where the rapids rip and roar?
Have you swept the visioned valley with the
green stream streaking through it,
Searched the Vastness for a something you have lost?
Have you strung your soul to silence?
then for God’s sake go and do it;
Hear the challenge, learn the lesson, pay the cost.

Have you wandered in the wilderness, the sagebrush desolation,
The bunch-grass levels where the cattle graze?
Have you whistled bits of rag-time at the end of all creation,
And learned to know the desert’s little ways?
Have you camped upon the foothills,
have you galloped o’er the ranges,
Have you roamed the arid sun-lands through and through?
Have you chummed up with the mesa?
Do you know its moods and changes?
Then listen to the Wild — it’s calling you.

Have you known the Great White Silence,
not a snow-gemmed twig aquiver?
(Eternal truths that shame our soothing lies.)
Have you broken trail on snowshoes?
mushed your huskies up the river,
Dared the unknown, led the way, and clutched the prize?
Have you marked the map’s void spaces,
mingled with the mongrel races,
Felt the savage strength of brute in every thew?

And though grim as hell the worst is,
can you round it off with curses?
Then hearken to the Wild — it’s wanting you.
Have you suffered, starved and triumphed,
groveled down, yet grasped at glory,
Grown bigger in the bigness of the whole?
“Done things ” just for the doing, letting babblers tell the story,
Seeing through the nice veneer the naked soul?
Have you seen God in His splendors,
heard the text that nature renders?
(You’ll never hear it in the family pew.)
The simple things, the true things, the silent men who do things —
Then listen to the Wild — it’s calling you.

They have cradled you in custom,
they have primed you with their preaching,
They have soaked you in convention through and through;
They have put you in a showcase;
you’re a credit to their teaching —
But can’t you hear the Wild? — it’s calling you.
Let us probe the silent places,
let us seek what luck betide us;
Let us journey to a lonely land I know.
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.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Tony May 8, 2011 at 1:28 pm

Love the imagery in this poem. It beautifully describes places and times that I am most at peace and content. Unfortunately due to vocational choices I get to those places far too seldom.

It puts me to mind of Psalm 121:1 I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.

2 Richard May 8, 2011 at 2:06 pm

I was never a fan of Robert Service until I was lucky enough last summer to drive the Dempster Highway to Inuvik… with an extended stay in Dawson City afterwards.

The North is a place unlike any other. Its majesty can not be described in terms that do it justice.

3 Svenna May 8, 2011 at 2:57 pm

Helge Ingstad once wrote in Norwegian:

Og tror du det var ensomt og ferdes slik alene
Der skog og tundra sprer seg krevende og vill
Da feiler du min kjære,
for det er blant mennesker at ensomhet blir til

Translated to english it sounds like this. Enjoy:

So you believe one is lonely when wandering
where the forest and tundra stretches demanding and wild
Then you fail my dear
for it is among humans that loneliness thrive.

4 Cody May 8, 2011 at 9:06 pm

Wow, I guess that’s what it feels like to have a poem speak to your soul . . .

5 Kerry May 8, 2011 at 10:59 pm

Thank You Robert Service!

6 Tom Harbold May 9, 2011 at 6:47 am

The Bard of the Yukon! I still get goosebumps and a strange lump in my throat every time I read that one, or many others of his… Thank you for sharing this, especially for the sake of the many who may never have read it before.

7 David May 9, 2011 at 7:50 am

Suddenly I want to go on a hike through the woods. Thanks Brett.

I will be checking out more of Robert Service’s poetry.

8 KJ May 9, 2011 at 12:27 pm

Simply amazing. Makes me miss the time I spent in Arizona. What a magical place. Can’t wait to get back out west. This middle of the country stuff sucks.

9 Strong Man May 9, 2011 at 12:36 pm

Hiking and especially backpacking in the wild is truly manly. One of the best ways to develop into manly responsibilities. Especially if you can do it in the winter or you manage though various weather conditions.

On a trip a few days ago we encountered two men who had hiked to the peak of an steep snow-covered mountain about 12,000 feet high, and had skied all the way down the other side from the peak, until they ran out of snow and hiked the rest of the way down!

Talk about manly skill and ambition!

10 Kyle May 9, 2011 at 1:41 pm

Do you know where that picture was taken Brett?

…It looks an awful lot like the Deerborn river in Montana.

11 Daniel May 9, 2011 at 7:52 pm

This is one of my favorite Service poems; in fact, i just recorded a recitation of it on my youtube poetry site last month.
so far, Service is my favorite poet to read out loud. his rhythm and rhyme are just icing on the delicious cake of his imagery and stories.
http://youtu.be/ztThShnnTx0

12 Ryan May 11, 2011 at 8:05 pm

Had an old timer quote some of this poem to some buddies and I while standing on top of a 14er in Colorado. The guy was in his early 70′s and still climbing, pretty inspiring. I had never heard of Robert Service until then, and I have loved his work ever since.

13 Mark Petersen May 12, 2011 at 4:08 am

The point of this poem being to encourage me to get off my computer and enjoy the wild creation where ever it may be. Mission accomplished Robert Service.

14 rico567 December 23, 2012 at 1:53 pm

By all means, a copy of Service’s collected poems should be readily available, Ballads of a Cheechako if nothing else. Maybe he’s not one of the Big Boys, but he’s one of a kind:
“There are strange things done
In the Midnight Sun
By the men who moil for gold….”

15 John Waldron August 18, 2013 at 2:34 pm

I heard the call of the wild…Eagle rank in Boy Scouts and 2 Persian Excursions in the USN…enough for me!-John Waldron

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