“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.