This poem is culturally significant to my family, and has to do with the hardships of the northern climate.
"Robert W. Service, a Canadian poet and novelist, was known for his ballads of the Yukon. He wrote this narrative poem which is presented here because it is an outstanding example of how sensory stimuli are emphasized and it has a surprise ending.
Robert William Service was born in Preston, England, on January 16, 1874. He emigrated to Canada at the age of twenty, in 1894, and settled for a short time on Vancouver Island. He was employed by the Canadian Bank of Commerce in Victoria, B.C., and was later transferred to Whitehorse and then to Dawson in the Yukon. In all, he spent eight years in the Yukon and saw and experienced the difficult times of the miners, trappers, and hunters that he has presented to us in verse.
During the Balkan War of 1912-13, Service was a war correspondent to the Toronto Star. He served this paper in the same capacity during World War I, also serving two years as an ambulance driver in the Canadian Army medical corps. He returned to Victoria for a time during World War II, but later lived in retirement on the French Riviera, where he died on September 14, 1958, in Monte Carlo.
Sam McGee was a real person, a customer at the Bank of Commerce where Service worked. The Alice May was a real boat, the Olive May, a derelict on Lake Laberge.
Anyone who has experienced the bitterness of cold weather and what it can do to a man will empathize with Sam McGee’s feelings as expressed by Robert Service in this poem." - http://www.wordfocus.com/wordactcremation.html