Robert William Service (January 16, 1874 – September 11, 1958) was a British-Canadian poet and writer, often called “the Bard of the Yukon”.
Born in Lancashire of Scottish descent, he was a bank clerk by trade, but spent long periods travelling in Western America and Canada, often in some poverty. When his bank sent him to the Yukon, he was inspired by tales of the Klondike Gold Rush, and wrote two poems “The Shooting of Dan McGrew” and “The Cremation of Sam McGee”, which showed remarkable authenticity from an author with no experience of gold-mining, and enjoyed immediate popularity. Encouraged by this, he quickly wrote more poems on the same theme, which were published as Songs of a Sourdough (re-titled The Spell of the Yukon and Other Verses in the U.S.), and achieved a massive sale. When his next collection Ballads of a Cheechako proved equally successful, Service could afford to travel widely and live a leisurely life, basing himself in Paris and the French Riviera.
Partly because of their popularity, and the speed with which he wrote them, his works were dismissed as doggerel by the critics, who were tending to say the same of Kipling, with whom Service was often compared. This did not worry Service, who was happy to classify his work as “verse, not poetry”.