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Robert William Service

(16 January 1874 - 11 September 1958 / Preston)

Munition Maker


I am the Cannon King, behold!
I perish on a throne of gold.
With forest far and turret high,
Renowned and rajah-rich am I.
My father was, and his before,
With wealth we owe to war on war;
But let no potentate be proud . . .
There are no pockets in a shroud.

By nature I am mild and kind,
To gentleness and ruth inclined;
And though the pheasants over-run
My woods I will not touch a gun.
Yet while each monster that I forge
Thunders destruction form its gorge.
Death's whisper is, I vow, more loud . . .
There are no pockets in a shroud.

My time is short, my ships at sea
Already seem like ghosts to me;
My millions mock me I am poor
As any beggar at my door.
My vast dominion I resign,
Six feet of earth to claim is mine,
Brooding with shoulders bitter-bowed . . .
There are no pockets in a shroud.

Dear God, let me purge my heart,
And be of heaven's hope a part!
Flinging my fortune's foul increase
To fight for pity, love and peace.
Oh that I could with healing fare,
And pledged to poverty and prayer
Cry high above the cringing crowd:
"Ye fools! Be not Mammon cowed . . .
There are no pockets in a shroud."

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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