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The Cremation of Sam McGee

The Cremation of Sam McGee

by Robert Service

Stanza 12 Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 49-50

Then I made a hike, for I didn't like to hear him sizzle so;
And the heavens scowled, and the huskies howled, and the wind began to blow.

  • That was easy, right? Well, the job’s not quite done yet. Apparently, Sam’s body is making a rather unpleasant sizzling sound, kind of like your Thanksgiving turkey. (We know, super gross.)
  • All of a sudden, the weather get stormy, and the sky scowls, almost as if it were unhappy to see what’s going on. The dogs bark, the wind blows, and we’re back to having not such a great time.

Line 51

It was icy cold, but the hot sweat rolled down my cheeks, and I don't know why;

  • Even though it’s really cold outside, our speaker is sweating.
  • This is a weird image, and it’s hard to say what it means. Is he nervous? Sick? Scared? Even he doesn’t know where this reaction is coming from.
  • Notice that that this is another spot where Service makes a contrast between hot and cold.

Line 52

And the greasy smoke in an inky cloak went streaking down the sky.

  • The whole world has turned kind of scary again, and Service really rubs our faces in the grossness of all this.
  • He even describes the "greasy" black smoke that’s coming up from Sam’s body burning in the oven. Major TMI, as far as we’re concerned, but it definitely helps to build a kind of queasy mood.
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