The Cremation of Sam McGee
How we cite our quotes:
Talk of your cold! through the parka's fold it stabbed like a driven nail. (line 14)
It’s cold in the Arctic, and when you’re outside it hurts. A lot. This is such a great image of how these guys must have suffered during those freezing winters. It’s not just a little nippy, it’s more like having a nail pounded into your body. This sounds a lot more like torture than weather, and it reminds us what a big part suffering plays in this poem.
And we started on at the streak of dawn; but God! he looked ghastly pale.
He crouched on the sleigh, and he raved all day of his home in Tennessee; (lines 26-27)
We watch Sam McGee die here, and it definitely isn’t pretty. Our speaker describes an agonizing death, full of crazy ranting and a slow, freezing wasting away. It’s not just a question of Sam dying, it’s how he dies, the horrible way that the cold and the fear eat away at him. In some ways, this is kind of a funny, silly poem, but it definitely has a dark side, too.
In the days to come, though my lips were dumb, in my heart how I cursed that load (line 35)
Carrying Sam’s body around is pure suffering, too. There’s something about that body that really torments the speaker, and that makes an already hard situation even worse. Notice how he says his "lips were dumb." That’s dumb as in silent, not stupid, and it shows us that he won’t allow himself to admit how much he’s suffering. Maybe, holding it inside is a way of coping with the pain.