The Cremation of Sam McGee
How we cite our quotes:
And I'd often sing to the hateful thing, and it hearkened with a grin. (line 40)
This is a really weird, grisly moment, isn’t it? We don’t know about you, but we sort of love the black humor here. Imagine this guy riding along on a sled, singing to his dead buddy, who just grins along the whole time. This poem looks at death in a bunch of different ways. It shows how it’s a sad and moving experience, sure, but also something you kind of have to laugh at, if only to maintain your sanity.
And there sat Sam, looking cool and calm, in the heart of the furnace roar; (line 57)
Here’s the twist at the end of the poem. Death turns out to not be a one-way trip. In the final moments, Sam is actually resurrected by the fire. It’s silly and funny, for sure, but a victory over death is a really old and serious theme too. It’s the driving force behind the story of the Phoenix (which rises from the flames like Sam) and pretty much the whole Christian religion. We’re not trying to spoil the joke here, but we’re pretty sure Service is hinting at bigger ideas.