Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
On a Christmas Day we were mushing our way over the Dawson trail.
- With all of that background info out of the way, we get down to the actual story, which starts with the two men taking a trip.
- Three important things to notice here: 1) It’s Christmas day, which means its going to be extra cold in northern Canada. 2) They are "mushing" which means riding in sleds pulled by dogs. 3) They are on the "Dawson trail," a Gold Rush road that ran along the Yukon River from the town of Whitehorse up to the mining fields around the town of Dawson. Check it out this map and see how far Whitehorse is from Dawson.
Talk of your cold! through the parka's fold it stabbed like a driven nail.
- It’s super, super cold.
- We think Service’s image is great. He says the cold feels like a nail coming though your coat. Have you ever been in a place so freezing that it felt like the cold was trying to attack you anywhere it could? That’s what he’s talking about here.
If our eyes we'd close, then the lashes froze till sometimes we couldn't see;
- More about the cold.
- It’s so cold that when the men close their eyes, their eyelashes freeze shut and make it hard to see. Ugh.
It wasn't much fun, but the only one to whimper was Sam McGee.
- The speaker admits that he isn’t enjoying the cold much, but he says that the only guy on the trip who complains ("whimpers") is Sam. Sounds like he’s in pretty bad shape, and maybe, just maybe, a little bit of a wimp.