Pullman Porter

By Robert W. Service 1874–1958
The porter in the Pullman car
Was charming, as they sometimes are.
He scanned my baggage tags: “Are you
The man who wrote of Lady Lou?”
When I said “yes” he made a fuss —
Oh, he was most assiduous;
And I was pleased to think that he
Enjoyed my brand of poetry.

He was forever at my call,
So when we got to Montreal
And he had brushed me off, I said:
“I’m glad my poems you have read,
I feel quite flattered, I confess,
And if you give me your address
I’ll send you (autographed, of course)
One of my little books of verse.”

He smiled — his teeth were white as milk;
He spoke — his voice was soft as silk.
I recognized, despite his skin,
The perfect gentleman within.
Then courteously he made reply:
“I thank you kindly, Sir, but I
With many other cherished tome
Have all your books of verse at home.

“When I was quite a little boy
I used to savour them with joy;
And now my daughter, aged three,
Can tell the tale of Sam McGee;
While Tom, my son, that’s only two,
Has heard the yarn of Dan McGrew ....
Don’t think your stuff I’m not applaudin’ —
My taste is Eliot and Auden.”

So as we gravely bade adieu
I felt quite snubbed — and so would you.
And yet I shook him by the hand,
Impressed that he could understand
The works of those two tops I mention,
So far beyond my comprehension —
A humble bard of boys and barmen,
Disdained, alas! by Pullman carmen.

Source: The Best of Robert Service (1953)

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

Poet Robert W. Service 1874–1958

POET’S REGION Canada

Subjects Social Commentaries, Race & Ethnicity, Activities, Travels & Journeys, Poetry & Poets, Arts & Sciences, Reading & Books

Poetic Terms Couplet

 Robert W. Service

Biography

The fame of Robert Service—considerable in his day—resulted from the publication of two best-selling volumes of verse: The Spell of the Yukon (1907) and Ballad of a Cheechako (1909). In rollicking rhythms and comical rhymes, Service regaled armchair adventures with gripping yarns of the wild Northwest—rough men braving hardship on the lonely frontier in pursuit of “the muck called gold.”

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Social Commentaries, Race & Ethnicity, Activities, Travels & Journeys, Poetry & Poets, Arts & Sciences, Reading & Books

POET’S REGION Canada

Poetic Terms Couplet

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.