Ploughman of the Moon

By Robert Service
THIS is Mr. Service’s sixteenth published volume; another, Prevailing Wind, is “in preparation.” The latter may well be a sequel to the present reminiscence, for Mr. Service admits to seventy years, and Ploughman of the Moon records only forty of them. There is obviously an enormous gap between the man we leave as he says his farewell to Dawson and the man who writes a postscript saying he must go back to rebuild the home and life of thirty years’ residence in France.
The man we find in this book is young. He is self-absorbed, daydreaming, romantic. So far as one can tell from this record, he was able to form no deep or lasting attachment for any woman. Somewhere he tucks in “there were girls,” but it is obvious that they were gone tomorrow. His male friends too were always shifting.
The man who wrote the balladry of a lusty country is the quintessence of the adolescent who calls himself artist — and who is called by others Bohemian. At twenty-three this bank clerk making fifty pounds a year emigrated to Canada to pursue his fortune. For many years he was an itinerant laborer. Then a Canadian bank sent him to White Horse — and to the country which was to make him fame and fortune.
This record of his first forty years provides two paradoxes: the devotee of Burns and Kipling who turned his versifying passion to such tough subjects as the Malamute saloon is not far removed in spirit from the romantic French decadents. The bank clerk and hobo who hit the pay dirt of publishing for a modest fortune still cannot participate in life successfully. These paradoxes make his memoir absorbing reading in spite of his preoccupation with the moon and with his soul, and the inevitable clichés. His account of the Alaska of his youth is first-class armchair adventure into the snug — and dangerous — world of snow. Readers should not be put off this book by an instinct to shy away from that bunch of the boys who whoop it up in rhyme.