The Cremation of Sam McGee
by Robert Service
The cold in this poem is a physical presence, almost like a wild animal or something. It chews away at these poor guys until there’s almost nothing left. It’s pretty clear that the cold robs Sam of his will to live, and then actually takes his life (for a little while, at least).
- Line 14: We sort of love this line. It’s such a great, powerful, intense image of the way real cold feels. It doesn’t just cut you or sting you, it drives into you like someone or something was pounding a nail into your flesh. This cold means serious business.
- Line 21: Here Sam comes right out and blames the cold for his death. He’d do anything to escape it, and that’s where his fantasy of being cremated comes from. It’s the only way he can think of to get free of the cold forever. Notice a little more neat alliteration here: "cursed cold."
- Line 59: Sam’s funny last words let us know that he’s finally beat the cold. In a way, the whole poem has been about the fight between fire (warmth and life) and ice (cold and death). Warmth and life make an unexpected comeback here, and the furnace almost seems cozy.