Robert William Service

(16 January 1874 - 11 September 1958 / Preston)

Reverence - Poem by Robert William Service

I saw the Greatest Man on Earth,
Aye, saw him with my proper eyes.
A loin-cloth spanned his proper girth,
But he was naked otherwise,
Excepting for his grey sombrero;
And when his domelike head he bared,
With reverence I stared and stared,
As mummified as any Pharaoh.

He leaned upon a little cane,
A big cigar was in his mouth;
Through spectacles of yellow stain
He gazed and gazed toward the South;
And then he dived into the sea,
As if to Corsica to swim;
His side stroke was so strong and free
I could not help but envy him.

A fitter man than I, I said,
Although his age is more than mine;
And I was strangely comforted
To see him battle in the brine.
Thought I: We have no cause for sorrow;
For one so dynamic to-day
Will gird him for the future fray
And lead us lion-like to-morrow.

The Greatest Man in all the world
Lay lazing like you or me,
Within a flimsy bathrobe curled
Upon a mattress by the sea:
He reached to pat a tou-tou's nose,
And scratched his torso now and then,
And scribbled with a fountain pen
What I assumed was jewelled prose.

And then methought he looked at me,
And hailed me with a gesture grand;
His fingers made the letter "V,"
So I, too, went to raise my hand; -
When nigh to me the barman glided
With liquid gold, and then I knew
He merely called for cock-tails two,
And so abjectly I subsided.

Yet I have had my moment's glory,
A-squatting nigh that Mighty Tory,
Proud Hero of our Island Story.

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Read poems about / on: hero, sea, future, sorrow, world, swimming

Poem Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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