Walking in Paris

Robert W. Service

“I take my exercise in the form of walking. It keeps me fit and leaves me free to think. In this way I have come to know Paris like my pocket. I have explored its large and little streets, its stateliness and its slums. But most of all I love the Quays, between the leafage and the sunlit Seine. Like shuttles the little steamers dart up and down, weaving the water into patterns of foam. Cigar-shaped barges stream under the lacework of many bridges and make me think of tranquil days and willow-fringed horizons. But what I love most is the stealing in of night, when the sky takes on that strange elusive purple; when eyes turn to the evening star and marvel at its brightness; when the Eiffel Tower becomes a strange, shadowy stairway yearning in impotent effort to the careless moon.”

— From Ballads of a Bohemian (1921) by Robert Service

Service is best known for his poems “The Shooting of Dan McGrew” and “The Cremation of Sam McGee,” but he did not spend his entire life in the Yukon. From 1913 to 1928 he lived in Paris where he was said to be the city’s wealthiest author; yet, he often dressed as a working man and walked the streets, blending in and observing. During the winter, he lived in Nice where he met H.G. Wells, Somerset Maugham and James Joyce, and was once lucky enough to have lunch with Colette.


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