'"Fighting Mac"' by Robert W. Service

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A Life Tragedy

A pistol shot rings round and round the world;
In pitiful defeat a warrior lies.
A last defiance to dark Death is hurled,
A last wild challenge shocks the sunlit skies.
Alone he falls, with wide, wan, woeful eyes:
Eyes that could smile at death -- could not face shame.

Alone, alone he paced his narrow room,
In the bright sunshine of that Paris day;
Saw in his thought the awful hand of doom;
Saw in his dream his glory pass away;
Tried in his heart, his weary heart, to pray:
"O God! who made me, give me strength to face
The spectre of this bitter, black disgrace."

The burn brawls darkly down the shaggy glen;
The bee-kissed heather blooms around the door;
He sees himself a barefoot boy again,
Bending o'er page of legendary lore.
He hears the pibroch, grips the red claymore,
Runs with the Fiery Cross, a clansman true,
Sworn kinsman of Rob Roy and Roderick Dhu.

Eating his heart out with a wild desire,
One day, behind his counter trim and neat,
He hears a sound that sets his brain afire --
The Highlanders are marching down the street.
Oh, how the pipes shrill out, the mad drums beat!
"On to the gates of Hell, my Gordons gay!"
He flings his hated yardstick away.

He sees the sullen pass, high-crowned with snow,
Where Afghans cower with eyes of gleaming hate.
He hurls himself against the hidden foe.
They try to rally -- ah, too late, too late!
Again, defenseless, with fierce eyes that wait
For death, he stands, like baited bull at bay,
And flouts the Boers, that mad Majuba day.

He sees again the murderous Soudan,
Blood-slaked and rapine-swept. He seems to stand
Upon the gory plain of Omdurman.
Then Magersfontein, and supreme command
Over his Highlanders. To shake his hand
A King is proud, and princes call him friend.
And glory crowns his life -- and now the end,

The awful end. His eyes are dark with doom;
He hears the shrapnel shrieking overhead;
He sees the ravaged ranks, the flame-stabbed gloom.
Oh, to have fallen! -- the battle-field his bed,
With Wauchope and his glorious brother-dead.
Why was he saved for this, for this? And now
He raises the revolver to his brow.

In many a Highland home, framed with rude art,
You'll find his portrait, rough-hewn, stern and square;
It's graven in the Fuyam fellah's heart;
The Ghurka reads it at his evening prayer;
The raw lands know it, where the fierce suns glare;
The Dervish fears it. Honor to his name
Who holds aloft the shield of England's fame.

Mourn for our hero, men of Northern race!
We do not know his sin; we only know
His sword was keen. He laughed death in the face,
And struck, for Empire's sake, a giant blow.
His arm was strong. Ah! well they learnt, the foe
The echo of his deeds is ringing yet --
Will ring for aye. All else. . .let us forget.

Editor 1 Interpretation

"Fighting Mac" by Robert W. Service

Oh, what a poem! "Fighting Mac" is a literary masterpiece that captures the essence of the bravado and courage of a soldier in the midst of war. Written by Robert W. Service, a poet known for his vivid descriptions of warfare and tales of adventure, this poem is a must-read for anyone interested in the genre.


"Fighting Mac" tells the story of a soldier named Mac who is a fearless warrior in the trenches of World War I. The poem is written in a first-person point of view, and the narrator describes the events that unfold as Mac faces his enemies. The poem is divided into six stanzas, each with four lines. The rhyme scheme is AABB.


At the heart of "Fighting Mac" is the theme of bravery in the face of danger. Mac is presented as an embodiment of this virtue, as he charges into battle without hesitation or fear. The poem opens with a vivid description of Mac's appearance: "With eyes that blaze and a jaw that's set, / And a body that's hard and trim, / He took his place with a swing and a grace / That made us look at him." The use of strong adjectives such as "blaze" and "hard" underscores Mac's toughness and strength.

As the poem continues, we see Mac's bravery in action. He charges into battle and takes down multiple enemies with his rifle. The narrator describes him as a "whirlwind" and a "lion" as he fights. The imagery used here is powerful, as it conjures up vivid pictures of Mac's fighting style.

The poem also touches on the concept of sacrifice. Mac is not just brave, he is also willing to lay down his life for his country. In the third stanza, the narrator describes how Mac is "shot through the lung" but still manages to "face the foe with a smile." This moment is particularly poignant, as it shows how Mac is willing to endure pain and suffering for a cause he believes in.

Another key theme in the poem is the notion of brotherhood. The soldiers in the trenches are presented as a close-knit group, united by their common struggle. This is evident in the fourth stanza, where the narrator describes how the soldiers rally around Mac and carry him to safety. The line "We lifted him up with a mighty cheer" is particularly moving, as it shows how the soldiers are willing to risk their own lives to save their comrade.

Literary techniques

One of the most striking literary techniques used in "Fighting Mac" is the use of alliteration. Service uses this technique to create a sense of rhythm and flow in the poem. For example, in the first stanza, we see the use of alliteration in the phrases "eyes that blaze" and "jaw that's set." This not only adds to the musicality of the poem but also emphasizes the strength and power of Mac.

Another technique Service employs is the use of imagery. The author paints vivid pictures of Mac's fighting style, using metaphors such as "whirlwind" and "lion." This creates a sense of drama and excitement in the poem, making it more engaging for the reader.

Service also uses repetition to great effect in the poem. The phrase "Fighting Mac" is repeated multiple times throughout the poem, emphasizing the central role that Mac plays in the story. Additionally, the repetition of the phrase "we lifted him up with a mighty cheer" in the fourth stanza is particularly powerful, as it shows how the soldiers come together to help one another.


In conclusion, "Fighting Mac" is a powerful poem that captures the essence of bravery and sacrifice in wartime. Through vivid imagery and strong literary techniques, Service creates a compelling story that is both exciting and moving. The poem serves as a tribute to the soldiers who fought and died for their country, and a reminder of the importance of courage, brotherhood, and sacrifice.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Fighting Mac: A Classic Poem by Robert W. Service

If you're a fan of classic poetry, then you've probably heard of Robert W. Service. He was a Scottish-Canadian poet and writer who gained fame for his poems about the Yukon and the Klondike Gold Rush. One of his most famous poems is "The Cremation of Sam McGee," but today we're going to talk about another one of his classics: "Fighting Mac."

"Fighting Mac" is a poem that tells the story of a man named Mac, who is a fighter. He's not just any fighter, though - he's the best fighter in the land. He's fought in every town and city, and he's never lost a fight. He's a legend, and everyone knows his name.

The poem starts with Mac walking into a bar. He's looking for a fight, as usual. He sees a man sitting at the bar, and he knows that this is the man he wants to fight. The man is big and strong, but Mac isn't afraid. He walks up to the man and challenges him to a fight.

The man is hesitant at first, but he eventually agrees. The two men step outside, and the fight begins. The crowd gathers around to watch, and they're all cheering for Mac. They know that he's the best fighter in the land, and they want to see him win.

The fight is intense. The two men are throwing punches and kicks, and they're both getting hit hard. But Mac is determined to win. He's not going to let this man beat him. He keeps fighting, and eventually, he lands a knockout punch. The man falls to the ground, and Mac is declared the winner.

The crowd goes wild. They're cheering and clapping, and they're all congratulating Mac on his victory. Mac is proud of himself, but he's also tired. He knows that he can't keep fighting forever. He's getting older, and his body is starting to slow down.

The poem ends with Mac walking away from the bar. He's done fighting for the night, but he knows that he'll be back. He'll keep fighting until he can't fight anymore. He's a fighter, and that's all he knows how to do.

So, what makes "Fighting Mac" such a classic poem? Well, for one, it's a great story. It's a story about a man who is the best at what he does, and he's not afraid to show it. It's a story about determination and perseverance. Mac never gives up, even when he's tired and beaten down.

But the poem is also a commentary on society. Mac is a symbol of the working class. He's a man who has to fight for everything he has. He's not rich or powerful, but he's strong and determined. He's a hero to the people who watch him fight, because he represents their struggles and their triumphs.

The poem is also a reflection on masculinity. Mac is a man's man. He's tough and strong, and he's not afraid to show it. He's a fighter, and that's what makes him a man. But the poem also shows the downside of this kind of masculinity. Mac is getting older, and his body is starting to slow down. He can't keep fighting forever. The poem is a reminder that even the toughest men have their limits.

Overall, "Fighting Mac" is a classic poem that tells a great story and has a deeper meaning. It's a poem that has stood the test of time, and it's still relevant today. If you haven't read it yet, I highly recommend it. It's a great example of what classic poetry can be.

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