'Grin' by Robert W. Service

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If you're up against a brusier and you're getting knocked about --

If you're feeling pretty groggy, and you're licked beyond a doubt --

Don't let him see you're funking, let him know with every clout,
Though your face is battered to a pup, your blooming heart is stout;
Just stand upon your pins until the beggar knocks you out --
And grin.

This life's a bally battle, and the same advice holds true
Of grin.

If you're up against it badly, then it's only one on you,
So grin.

If the future's black as thunder, don't let people see you're blue;
Just cultivate a cast-ron smile of joy the whole day through;
If they call you"Little Sunshine," wish that they'd no troubles too --
You may -- grin.

Rise up in the morning with the will that, smooth or rough,
You'll grin.

Sink to sleep at midnight, and although you're feeling tough,
Yet grin.

There's nothing gained by whining, and you're not that kind of stuff;
You're a fighter from way back, and you won't take a rebuff;
Your trouble is that you don't know when you have had enough --
Don't give in.

If Fate should down you, just get and take another cuff;
You bank on it that there is no philosophy like bluff,
And grin.

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Grin: An Analysis of Robert W. Service's Poem

Have you ever felt the discomfort of being in the presence of someone who is grinning from ear to ear, for no apparent reason? Robert W. Service in his poem 'The Grin' explores the complex emotions that are evoked by such a sight. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will delve deep into the themes, language, and imagery used by Service in this classic piece of poetry.


Robert W. Service was a British-Canadian poet and writer who gained widespread popularity for his narrative poems set in the Canadian Yukon during the Klondike Gold Rush. His works are marked by their vivid descriptions of the natural landscape and the harsh realities of life in the far north. 'The Grin' was published in his 1912 collection 'Rhymes of a Rolling Stone.'


At first glance, 'The Grin' appears to be a simple poem about the unsettling effect of a persistent smile. However, on closer examination, we can discern several underlying themes.

Confronting Mortality

One of the most prominent themes in the poem is the inevitability of death. The character in the poem, who is grinning incessantly, is described as having a "deathly grin." This phrase carries a powerful connotation of mortality, suggesting that the character is not long for this world. The narrator, who is unsettled by the grin, reflects on his own mortality, wondering if he too will one day be reduced to a "deathly grin."

The Mask of Happiness

Another theme that emerges from the poem is the idea of the mask of happiness. The character's grin is described as "fixed" and "frozen," suggesting that it is not a genuine expression of joy. Instead, the grin is a facade, a mask that the character wears to hide their true emotions. The poem suggests that such masks are common in society, that people often put on a happy face to conceal their inner turmoil.

The Unsettling Effect of the Unknown

Finally, the poem explores the unsettling effect of the unknown. The narrator is unsure what is causing the character to grin so persistently, and this uncertainty is what makes the grin so unsettling. The poem hints at the idea that the unknown is inherently frightening, that we are more comfortable with what we can understand and explain. The character's grin is a mystery, and this mystery is what makes it so unnerving.

Language and Imagery

Service's use of language and imagery in 'The Grin' is masterful. The poem is written in a simple, straightforward style that belies its complexity.

Metaphors and Similes

One of the key literary devices used in the poem is metaphor. The character's grin is likened to a "frozen rictus," a "deathly grin," and a "fixed smile." Each of these metaphors conveys a slightly different aspect of the character's expression, highlighting the eerie and unsettling nature of the grin.

Service also employs simile in the poem, comparing the grin to a "slimy thing" and a "worm." These similes emphasize the repulsive nature of the grin, suggesting that it is something that should be avoided.


Another device used by Service is repetition. The phrase "that awful, awful grin" is repeated several times throughout the poem, emphasizing the narrator's horror at the sight of the character's expression. The repetition also serves to reinforce the theme of the unknown, as the narrator continues to be unsettled by the grin even after seeing it multiple times.


Finally, Service employs personification in the poem, giving human qualities to an inanimate object. The character's grin is described as having a "life of its own," suggesting that it is not just a physical expression but something more sinister and malevolent.


So what does 'The Grin' ultimately mean? The poem is open to interpretation, but one possible reading is that it is a commentary on the human condition. The character's grin represents the masks that we all wear to hide our inner turmoil, and the narrator's horror at the sight of the grin represents our fear of confronting the unknown. The poem suggests that the only way to truly live is to remove our masks and confront our fears head-on, even if the result is unsettling or unpleasant.


In conclusion, 'The Grin' is a haunting and thought-provoking poem that explores the complex themes of mortality, the mask of happiness, and the unsettling effect of the unknown. Service's use of language and imagery is masterful, conveying the horror and unease of the character's grin with simple yet evocative phrases. Ultimately, the poem invites us to reflect on our own masks and fears and to consider the consequences of removing them.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Poetry Grin: A Masterpiece by Robert W. Service

Robert W. Service, the renowned poet, has left an indelible mark on the world of literature with his exceptional works. One of his most celebrated poems, The Poetry Grin, is a masterpiece that has captured the hearts of readers for generations. This poem is a perfect example of Service's ability to create vivid imagery and convey deep emotions through his words. In this article, we will delve into the intricacies of The Poetry Grin and explore its themes, structure, and literary devices.

The poem begins with the speaker describing a man with a "poetry grin" who is walking down the street. The man's grin is so infectious that it spreads to everyone he passes by, and they too begin to smile. The speaker then goes on to describe the various people who are affected by the man's grin, including a "grimy kid" and a "sallow clerk." The poem ends with the speaker wondering what the man's secret is and why his grin has such a profound effect on people.

The theme of The Poetry Grin is the power of positivity and how it can spread from one person to another. The man with the poetry grin is a symbol of hope and joy, and his infectious smile has the power to lift the spirits of those around him. The poem shows how a simple act of kindness, like a smile, can have a ripple effect and bring happiness to others.

The structure of The Poetry Grin is simple yet effective. The poem consists of four stanzas, each with four lines. The rhyme scheme is AABB, which gives the poem a sing-song quality and makes it easy to remember. The simplicity of the structure allows the focus to remain on the message of the poem, which is the power of positivity.

Service uses several literary devices in The Poetry Grin to convey his message. One of the most prominent devices is imagery. The man with the poetry grin is described as having a "face like a benediction," which creates a vivid image of a kind and gentle person. The "grimy kid" and "sallow clerk" are also described in a way that creates a clear picture in the reader's mind. The use of imagery helps to bring the poem to life and makes it more relatable to the reader.

Another literary device used in The Poetry Grin is repetition. The phrase "poetry grin" is repeated throughout the poem, which emphasizes the importance of the man's smile. The repetition also creates a sense of rhythm and adds to the sing-song quality of the poem.

Service also uses irony in The Poetry Grin. The man with the poetry grin is described as being "poor as a poet," which is ironic because poets are often associated with poverty. The irony adds a layer of complexity to the poem and makes the reader think about the true value of wealth and happiness.

The language used in The Poetry Grin is simple yet powerful. Service uses words like "benediction," "radiant," and "gladness" to create a sense of positivity and joy. The language is also accessible, which makes the poem easy to understand and appreciate.

In conclusion, The Poetry Grin is a masterpiece that showcases Robert W. Service's exceptional talent as a poet. The poem's theme of the power of positivity and its simple yet effective structure make it a timeless classic. Service's use of literary devices like imagery, repetition, and irony adds depth and complexity to the poem. The language used in The Poetry Grin is simple yet powerful, which makes it accessible to readers of all ages. This poem is a testament to the enduring power of poetry and its ability to inspire and uplift the human spirit.

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