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The Cremation of Sam McGee

The Cremation of Sam McGee


by Robert Service

Analysis: Sound Check

This poem has a really distinctive rhythm to it that makes the lines really fun to read. It kind of ambles along, and even when it gets exciting, it doesn’t speed up that much. Try reading it really fast. See – it doesn’t sound right, does it?

When we read this poem aloud, we hear the slow, clip-clop sound of a lazy old horse. It’ll get where it’s going, but it’ll take its time about it, thank you very much. Read line 21 out loud for a good example:

Well, he seemed so low that I couldn't say no; then he says with a sort of moan

Hear that slow lope? Da Da DUM Da DUM Da Da DUM, etc.

The open sound of the vowels helps with that too. Look at the three key words in this sentence: "Low," "no," "moan." They are all broad, open, slow-moving sounds. We hear those sounds everywhere in this poem. When we do, it’s hard for us not to think of that old horse, trotting his slow way down a trail.

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