“The Cremation of Sam McGee”
Concept: Ballad
Essential Question
This poem is actually a narrative poem
because it tells a story. However, it is very
similar to a ballad, which is a narrative song
that tells about heroes and adventures.
How is a narrative poem similar to a
ballad?
About the Author
Robert Service
• 1874-1958
• Popular verse writer
known for his ballads
• Moved to Canada after
World War I
• Canada and the Yukon
Territory is the setting
for most of his poetry
Background to the Poem
• The setting of this poem is the Yukon Territory in
northwestern Canada.
• The first gold was discovered here in a small creek off the
Klondike River in the 1890s.
• Eventually, tens of thousands of Americans swarmed to
the area in search of gold, but they faced obstacles such as
below-freezing temperatures, lack of food, a fierce
environment, and few established settlements. Many died
in their quest for gold.
• However, within the first ten years of discovery, over $100
million in gold was removed from the region.
The Trail to Dawson
Most gold prospectors
arrived in Skagway,
Alaska, and ventured up
through the treacherous
region of the Yukon
Territory to reach
Dawson City, a central
town during the
Klondike gold rush.
Thinking about the Poem
This poem tells the story of Sam McGee, a gold
prospector who travelled all the way from his home
in Tennessee. Sam McGee hates the cold, and his
only request of his sledding partner is to cremate
him in a fire if he should die.
Line 33 states, “Now a promise made is a debt
unpaid…”
In your opinion, what does this statement
mean?
Vocabulary Preview
The following vocabulary words appear in the
poem. How many do you already know?
Homely
Ghastly
Brawn
Grisly
Moil
Mushing
Tax
Hearkened
Derelict
Marge
As You Read…
Think about the elements of poetry that we
have studied this year. In your notes, make a
list of the literary devices that Robert Service
uses in the poem and find an example in the
poem.
Think about…
Rhyme
Rhythm
Alliteration
Personification
Imagery
Repetition
Figurative Language
The Poem
Country singing legend Johnny Cash made
one of the most famous recitations of this
poem.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJNZwu
amwj0
Post-Reading Activity
This poem really doesn’t seem to relate to our
theme of American patriotism. However, you
need to think about the character of Sam
McGee and his motivation for leaving his
home and journeying to the Klondike. How
does Sam McGee illustrate the ideals of
patriotism?
Answer this question in your notes.
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The Cremation of Sam McGee”