The Cremation Of Sam Mcgee
The cremation of Sam McGee is something of a beloved traditional ballad in my family and is recited by various family members at get-togethers. I struggled remembering such a long ballad and wished it was set to music, which I find easier to put to memory. Recently I stumbled across a You-Tube video (sorry, lost the source!) of someone singing it to the tune of the "County Down." I was absolutely tickled about it and figured I'd better share. Rhythm-wise I use a more up-beat count but don't usually go quite so fast as the Irish Rovers in their County down. The Cremation of Sam McGee By Robert William Service (with slight adjustments for flow) Em G D There are strange things done in the midnight sun Em C D By the men who moil for gold; Em G D The Arctic trails have their secret tales Em D Em That would make your blood run cold; G D The Northern Lights have seen queer sights, Em C D But the queerest they ever did see Em G D Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge Em D Em I cremated Sam McGee. Em G D Now Sam McGee was from Tennessee, Em C D where the cotton blooms and blows. Em G D Why he left his home in the South to roam Em D Em 'round the Pole, God only knows. G D He was always cold, but the land of gold Em C D seemed to hold him like a spell; Em G D Though he'd often say in his homely way Em D Em that he'd "sooner live in hell". Em G D On a Christmas Day we were mushing our way Em C D over the Dawson trail. Em G D Talk of your cold! through the parka's fold Em D Em it stabbed like a driven nail. G D If our eyes we'd close, then the lashes froze Em C D till sometimes we couldn't see; Em G D It wasn't much fun, but the only one Em D Em to whimper was Sam McGee. Em G D And that very night, as we lay packed tight Em C D in our robes beneath the snow, Em G D And the dogs were fed, and the stars over head Em D Em were dancing heel and toe, G D He turned to me, and "Cap," says he, Em C D "I'll cash in this trip, I guess; Em G D And if I do, I'm asking that you Em D Em won't refuse my last request." Em G D Well, he seemed so low that I couldn't say no; Em C D then he says with a sort of moan: Em G D "It's the cursed cold, and it's got right hold Em D Em till I'm chilled clean through to the bone. G D Yet 'tain't being dead -- it's my awful dread Em C D of the icy grave that pains; Em G D So I want you to swear that, foul or fair, Em D Em you'll cremate my last remains." Em G D A pal's last need is a thing to heed, Em C D so I swore I would not fail; Em G D And we started on at the streak of dawn; Em D Em but God! he looked ghastly pale. G D He crouched on the sleigh, and he raved all day Em C D of his home in Tennessee; Em G D And before nightfall a corpse was all Em D Em that was left of Sam McGee. Em G D There wasn't a breath in that land of death, Em C D and I hurried, horror-driven, Em G D With a corpse half hid that I couldn't get rid, Em D Em because of a promise given; G D It was lashed to the sleigh, and it seemed to say: Em C D "You may tax your brawn and brains, Em G D But you promised true, and it's up to you Em D Em to cremate those last remains." Em G D Now a promise made is a debt unpaid, Em C D and the trail has its own stern code. Em G D In the days to come, though my lips were dumb, Em D Em in my heart how I cursed that load. G D In the long, long night, by the lone firelight, Em C D while the huskies, round in a ring, Em G D Howled out their woes to the homeless snows Em D Em -- O God! how I loathed the thing. Em G D And every day that quiet clay Em C D seemed to heavy and heavier grow; Em G D And on I went, though the dogs were spent Em D Em and the grub was getting low; G D The trail was bad, and I felt half mad, Em C D but I swore I would not give in; Em G D And I'd often sing to the hateful thing, Em D Em and it hearkened with a grin. Em G D Till I came to the marge of Lake Lebarge, Em C D and a derelict there lay; Em G D It was jammed in the ice, but I saw in a trice Em D Em it was called the "Alice May". G D And I looked at it, and I thought a bit, Em C D and I looked at my frozen chum; Em G D Then "Here," said I, with a sudden cry, Em D Em "is my cre-ma-tor-eum." Em G Em Some planks I tore from the cabin floor, Em C D and I lit the boiler fire; Em G D Some coal I found that was lying around, Em D Em and I heaped the fuel higher; G D The flames just soared, and the furnace roared Em C D -- such a blaze you seldom see; Em G D And I burrowed a hole in the glowing coal, Em D Em and I stuffed in Sam McGee. Em G D Then I made a hike, for I didn't like Em C D to hear him sizzle so; Em G D And the heavens scowled, and the huskies howled, Em D Em and the wind began to blow. G D It was icy cold, but the hot sweat rolled Em C Em down my cheeks, and I don't know why; Em G D And the greasy smoke in an inky cloak Em D Em went streaking down the sky. Em G D I do not know how long in the snow Em C D I wrestled with grisly fear; Em G D But the stars came out and they danced about Em D Em ere again I ventured near; G D I was sick with dread, but I bravely said: Em C D "I'll just take a peep inside. Em G D I guess he's cooked, and it's time I looked"; . . . Em D Em then the door I opened wide. Em G D And there sat Sam, looking cool and calm, Em C D in the heart of the furnace roar; Em G D And he wore a smile you could see a mile, Em D Em and he said: "Please close that door. G D It's fine in here, but I greatly fear Em D Em you'll let in the cold and storm -- Em G D Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee, Em D Em it's the first time I've been warm." Em G D There are strange things done in the midnight sun Em C D By the men who moil for gold; Em G D The Arctic trails have their secret tales Em D Em That would make your blood run cold; G D The Northern Lights have seen queer sights, Em C D But the queerest they ever did see Em G D Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge Em D Em I cremated Sam McGee.