This poem, The Quitter, is by Mr. Robert Service - among the boxes (yes, boxes) of cool old poetry books I've got, there's this big old ragged book. The cover is half ripped off, waterstained, hard-loved, tossed in satchels, used and abused ever since 1940 when this version came out. I've read every one of the poems in it. My parents, who are avid backpackers, have used precious space in their packs to bring it with them to the Sierras so they could read it by firelight. My "uncle" Dan memorized a few of the poems, such as the famously long "The Ballad of Sam McGee," which tells the story of a Yukon prospecter from Tennessee who freezes to death, but on his cremation wakes up happy, since its "the first time I've been...warm." Uncle Dan is not a reader of poetry, much less someone who does things like memorize a poem fifteen stanzas long and recite it verbatim from memory.
Mr. Service wrote enjoyable, rough-n-tumble poems about the Yukon, World War I, life in France, death everywhere, and common things. He was a poet for the everyday person who enjoys dreaming of adventures, or the adventurous one who liked a reminder of home. My girlfriend, Nat, memorized The Quitter.
So in honor of Nat and all the people who are fighting their own personal battles
I give you The Quitter.
When you're lost in the Wild, and you're scared as a child,
And Death looks you bang in the eye,
And you're sore as a boil, it's according to Hoyle
To cock your revolver and . . . die.
But the Code of a Man says: "Fight all you can,"
And self-dissolution is barred.
In hunger and woe, oh, it's easy to blow . . .
It's the hell-served-for-breakfast that's hard.
"You're sick of the game!" Well, now, that's a shame.
You're young and you're brave and you're bright.
"You've had a raw deal!" I know -- but don't squeal,
Buck up, do your damnedest, and fight.
It's the plugging away that will win you the day,
So don't be a piker, old pard!
Just draw on your grit; it's so easy to quit:
It's the keeping-your-chin-up that's hard.
It's easy to cry that you're beaten -- and die;
It's easy to crawfish and crawl;
But to fight and to fight when hope's out of sight --
Why, that's the best game of them all!
And though you come out of each gruelling bout,
All broken and beaten and scarred,
Just have one more try -- it's dead easy to die,
It's the keeping-on-living that's hard.