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“My Madonna” a poem by Robert W. Service

Picked up a new book from the book store two nights ago. Actually I picked up two. Really and truly I have been reading way more poetry than I’ve been writing as of late. It all started on Father’s Day when my lovely wife, Suzanne bought me a complete collection of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s writings. After I read that, yes all of it! – I began on a collection of Edgar Allen Poe short stories. All of which are amazing. So all the while I have also been reading through Shakespeare’s sonnets. So I picked up this queer little book entitled, “The Spell of the Yukon and Other Poems” by Robert W. Service – and another book that I will mention later. These poems are very rugged, to say the least. He was a turn of the century, self-made mountain man, gold miner, hunter, trader, adventurer of Southwestern Canada and the Northwestern US.

Each poem is like a little piece of time travel. That’s really the beauty of poetry. It has the ability to take you back to that very sparse moment that the poet experienced. A true poet can capture both massive and microscopic events and portray them in words with the same vibrancy and grandeur. One man writes about the tragedy of Gettysburg, while the other muses on the delicate way Autumn’s first leaf touches the ground. This is why I love poetry. All moments, both large and small can be captured the same.

The following poem is one I picked out for its sweet cynicism and poignant humor. Hope you enjoy it too.

My Madonna – by Robert W. Service

I haled me a woman from the street,
Shameless, but, oh, so fair!
I bade her sit in the model’s seat
And I painted her sitting there.

I hid all trace of her heart unclean;
I painted a babe at her breast;
I painted her as she might have been
If the Worst had been the Best.

She laughed at my picture and went away.
Then came, with a knowing nod,
A connoisseur, and I heard him say;
“‘Tis Mary, the Mother of God.”

So I painted a halo round her hair,
And I sold her and took my fee,
And she hangs in the church of Saint Hillaire,
Where you and all may see.

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