The Telegraph Operator

By Robert W. Service 1874–1958
I will not wash my face;
      I will not brush my hair;
I "pig" around the place —
      There's nobody to care.
Nothing but rock and tree;
      Nothing but wood and stone;
Oh God, it's hell to be
      Alone, alone, alone.

Snow-peaks and deep-gashed draws
      Corral me in a ring.
I feel as if I was
      The only living thing
On all this blighted earth;
      And so I frowst and shrink,
And crouching by my hearth,
      I hear the thoughts I think.

I think of all I miss —
      The boys I used to know;
The girls I used to kiss;
      The coin I used to blow:
The bars I used to haunt;
      The racket and the row;
The beers I didn't want
      (I wish I had 'em now).

Day after day the same,
      Only a little worse;
No one to grouch or blame —
      Oh, for a loving curse!
Oh, in the night I fear,
      Haunted by nameless things,
Just for a voice to cheer,
      Just for a hand that clings!

Faintly as from a star
      Voices come o'er the line;
Voices of ghosts afar,
      Not in this world of mine.
Lives in whose loom I grope;
      Words in whose weft I hear
Eager the thrill of hope,
      Awful the chill of fear.

I'm thinking out aloud;
      I reckon that is bad;
(The snow is like a shroud) —
      Maybe I'm going mad.
Say! wouldn't that be tough?
      This awful hush that hugs
And chokes one is enough
      To make a man go "bugs".

There's not a thing to do;
      I cannot sleep at night;
No wonder I'm so blue;
      Oh, for a friendly fight!
The din and rush of strife;
      A music-hall aglow;
A crowd, a city, life —
      Dear God, I miss it so!

Here, you have moped enough!
      Brace up and play the game!
But say, it's awful tough —
      Day after day the same
(I've said that twice, I bet).
      Well, there's not much to say.
I wish I had a pet,
      Or something I could play.

Cheer up! don't get so glum
      And sick of everything;
The worst is yet to come;
      God help you till the Spring.
God shield you from the Fear;
      Teach you to laugh, not moan.
Ha! ha! it sounds so queer —
      Alone, alone, alone.

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Robert W. Service 1874–1958


 Robert W. Service


Born in Lancashire, England to a bank cashier and an heiress, poet Robert William Service moved to Scotland at the age of five, living with his grandfather and three aunts until his parents moved to Glasgow four years later and the family reunited. He wrote his first poem on his sixth birthday, and was educated at some of the best schools in Scotland, where his interest in poetry grew alongside a desire for travel and adventure.

Continue reading this biography


Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.