'The Tramps' by Robert W. Service

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Can you recall, dear comrade, when we tramped God's land together,
And we sang the old, old Earth-song, for our youth was very sweet;
When we drank and fought and lusted, as we mocked at tie and tether,
Along the road to Anywhere, the wide world at our feet --

Along the road to Anywhere, when each day had its story;
When time was yet our vassal, and life's jest was still unstale;
When peace unfathomed filled our hearts as, bathed in amber glory,
Along the road to Anywhere we watched the sunsets pale?

Alas! the road to Anywhere is pitfalled with disaster;
There's hunger, want, and weariness, yet O we loved it so!
As on we tramped exultantly, and no man was our master,
And no man guessed what dreams were ours, as, swinging heel and toe,
We tramped the road to Anywhere, the magic road to Anywhere,
The tragic road to Anywhere, such dear, dim years ago.

Editor 1 Interpretation

"The Tramps" by Robert W. Service: A Journey of Despair and Hope

Have you ever walked down a lonely road, with nothing but the sound of your own footsteps echoing in the empty silence? Have you ever met a stranger on that road, and felt a sudden kinship despite your differences? These are the questions that Robert W. Service's poem "The Tramps" asks us to ponder, as we follow the journey of two homeless men who find solace in each other's company.

"The Tramps" is a classic example of Service's narrative style, which combines vivid imagery, colloquial language, and a strong sense of rhythm and rhyme to create a memorable story. The poem is structured as a series of five quatrains, each with an ABAB rhyme scheme and an irregular meter that varies from line to line. This gives the poem a sense of spontaneity and unpredictability, as if we are following the tramps' footsteps through a landscape that is constantly shifting and uncertain.

The first stanza sets the scene: "Oh we're gallant men in ragged jeans, / We're the fellows of the game, / And our hats are tilted rakishly / And our eyes are all aflame." Here we see the tramps depicted as proud and defiant, despite their poverty and homelessness. They are "gallant" and "rakish," suggesting a certain charm and swagger that belies their ragged appearance. The imagery of their eyes being "all aflame" adds to the sense of energy and passion that surrounds them.

The second stanza introduces the second tramp: "I met him on the highway, / And I said: 'Where do you roam?' / Said he: 'From nowhere in particular, / To anywhere but home.'" This exchange is typical of the kind of conversations that tramps might have on the road. They are both wary and curious, trying to gauge each other's intentions while also seeking connection and companionship. The use of colloquial language ("where do you roam") and the repetition of "nowhere" and "anywhere" create a sense of aimlessness and wanderlust.

The third stanza continues the conversation: "I said: 'What's your game, my brother, / In the merry play of life?' / Said he: 'It's just a longing / For the things that money can't buy.'" Here we see the tramps' philosophy of life: they are not interested in material wealth or social status, but in the intangible things that give life meaning and joy. This could include things like freedom, adventure, friendship, or love. The use of the word "brother" creates a sense of solidarity between the two men, as if they are part of a larger family of outcasts and rebels.

The fourth stanza introduces a more melancholy note: "For we've had our taste of pleasure, / And we've had our fill of the smart, / And we've learned that the only treasure / Is just a little human heart." Here we see the tramps acknowledging their past mistakes and failures, and recognizing that true happiness comes not from material abundance but from human connection. The use of the word "smart" suggests a certain cynicism or world-weariness, as if the tramps have seen through the superficiality and hypocrisy of conventional society. The phrase "little human heart" is especially poignant, suggesting that even the most humble and vulnerable among us can possess a kind of inner richness that cannot be bought or sold.

The fifth and final stanza brings the poem to a close: "So we'll tramp and tramp and tramp, my friend, / With the highway as our goal, / And we'll sleep and wake and sleep again, / And we'll rollick with a soul." Here we see the tramps' sense of purpose and direction: they are not aimless wanderers, but travelers on a quest for meaning and fulfillment. The use of the word "rollick" suggests a kind of joyful abandon, as if the tramps are dancing and singing their way through life despite its hardships and uncertainties. The word "friend" creates a final sense of connection and solidarity between the two men, as if they have formed a bond that transcends the boundaries of class, race, or gender.

In conclusion, "The Tramps" is a powerful and evocative poem that captures the spirit of two homeless men who find meaning and joy in each other's company. Through its use of vivid imagery, colloquial language, and a strong sense of rhythm and rhyme, the poem creates a world that is both familiar and exotic, both harsh and beautiful. It asks us to consider what truly matters in life, and to find hope and inspiration in the most unlikely places. As we continue to tramp along the highways and byways of our own lives, we can take comfort in the knowledge that we are not alone, and that even in the darkest of places, there is always the possibility of finding a little human heart.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Tramps: A Poem of the Wanderers

Robert W. Service's "The Tramps" is a classic poem that captures the essence of the wandering spirit. The poem is a tribute to the vagabonds, the drifters, and the hobos who roam the world, seeking adventure and freedom. It is a celebration of the nomadic lifestyle, and the beauty of the open road.

The poem begins with a vivid description of the tramps, who are "grimy, dusty, and brown." They are the outcasts of society, the ones who have chosen to live outside the norms of civilization. They are the ones who have rejected the comforts of home and the security of a steady job. They are the ones who have embraced the uncertainty of life on the road.

The tramps are portrayed as a band of brothers, united by their common bond of wanderlust. They are a diverse group, with different backgrounds and stories to tell. Some are young and strong, while others are old and weathered. Some are dreamers, while others are realists. But they all share a love of freedom, and a desire to explore the world.

The poem is filled with vivid imagery, which brings the tramps to life. We see them "lounging in the sun," "sitting by the fire," and "singing in the night." We hear their laughter, their songs, and their stories. We feel their joy, their pain, and their longing. We are drawn into their world, and we become a part of their journey.

The poem also captures the dangers and hardships of the tramp's life. We see them "trudging through the rain," "sleeping in the cold," and "begging for a meal." We feel their exhaustion, their hunger, and their despair. We understand the risks they take, and the sacrifices they make, in order to live the life they have chosen.

But despite the hardships, the tramps remain optimistic and hopeful. They are always looking forward to the next adventure, the next town, the next experience. They are never satisfied with the status quo, and they are always seeking something more. They are the embodiment of the human spirit, always striving for something better.

The poem also touches on the theme of mortality. The tramps are aware of their own mortality, and they accept it as a natural part of life. They know that their time on earth is limited, and they make the most of every moment. They live life to the fullest, and they never take anything for granted.

In the end, the poem is a celebration of the tramp's life. It is a tribute to their courage, their resilience, and their spirit. It is a reminder that there is more to life than material possessions and social status. It is a call to embrace the unknown, to take risks, and to live life on our own terms.

In conclusion, Robert W. Service's "The Tramps" is a classic poem that captures the essence of the wandering spirit. It is a celebration of the nomadic lifestyle, and the beauty of the open road. It is a tribute to the tramps, who have chosen to live outside the norms of society, and who have embraced the uncertainty of life on the road. It is a reminder that there is more to life than material possessions and social status, and that the human spirit is capable of great things.

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