Robert Louis Stevenson
O Dull Cold Northern Sky
O DULL cold northern sky,
O brawling sabbath bells,
O feebly twittering Autumn bird that tells
The year is like to die!
O still, spoiled trees, O city ways,
O sun desired in vain,
O dread presentiment of coming rain
That cloys the sullen days!
Thee, heart of mine, I greet.
In what hard mountain pass
Striv'st thou? In what importunate morass
Sink now thy weary feet?
Thou run'st a hopeless race
To win despair. No crown
Awaits success, but leaden gods look down
On thee, with evil face.
And those that would befriend
And cherish thy defeat,
With angry welcome shall turn sour the sweet
Home-coming of the end.
Yea, those that offer praise
To idleness, shall yet
Insult thee, coming glorious in the sweat
Of honourable ways.
Since Thou Hast Given Me This Good Hope, O God
SINCE thou hast given me this good hope, O God,
That while my footsteps tread the flowery sod
And the great woods embower me, and white dawn
And purple even sweetly lead me on
From day to day, and night to night, O God,
My life shall no wise miss the light of love;
But ever climbing, climb above
Man's one poor star, man's supine lands,
Into the azure steadfastness of death,
My life shall no wise lack the light of love,
My hands not lack the loving touch of hands;
But day by day, while yet I draw my breath,
And day by day, unto my last of years,
I shall be one that has a perfect friend.
Her heart shall taste my laughter and my tears,
And her kind eyes shall lead me to the end.
What are you able to build with your blocks?
Castles and palaces, temples and docks.
Rain may keep raining, and others go roam,
But I can be happy and building at home.
Let the sofa be mountains, the carpet be sea,
There I'll establish a city for me:
A kirk and a mill and a palace beside,
And a harbor as well where my vessels may ride.
Great is the palace with pillar and wall,
A sort of a tower on top of it all,
And steps coming down in an orderly way
To where my toy vessels lie safe in the bay.
This one is sailing and that one is moored:
Hark to the song of the sailors on board!
And see on the steps of my palace, the kings
Coming and going with presents and things!
I should like to rise and go
Where the golden apples grow;--
Where below another sky
Parrot islands anchored lie,
And, watched by cockatoos and goats,
Lonely Crusoes building boats;--
Where in sunshine reaching out
Eastern cities, miles about,
Are with mosque and minaret
Among sandy gardens set,
And the rich goods from near and far
Hang for sale in the bazaar;--
Where the Great Wall round China goes,
And on one side the desert blows,
And with the voice and bell and drum,
Cities on the other hum;--
Where are forests hot as fire,
Wide as England, tall as a spire,
Full of apes and cocoa-nuts
And the negro hunters' huts;--
Where the knotty crocodile
Lies and blinks in the Nile,
And the red flamingo flies
Hunting fish before his eyes;--
Where in jungles near and far,
Man-devouring tigers are,
Lying close and giving ear
Lest the hunt be drawing near,
Or a comer-by be seen
Swinging in the palanquin;--
Where among the desert sands
Some deserted city stands,
All its children, sweep and prince,
Grown to manhood ages since,
Not a foot in street or house,
Not a stir of child or mouse,
And when kindly falls the night,
In all the town no spark of light.
There I'll come when I'm a man
With a camel caravan;
Light a fire in the gloom
Of some dusty dining-room;
See the pictures on the walls,
Heroes fights and festivals;
And in a corner find the toys
Of the old Egyptian boys.
Smooth it glides upon its travel,
Here a wimple, there a gleam--
O the clean gravel!
O the smooth stream!
Sailing blossoms, silver fishes,
Pave pools as clear as air--
How a child wishes
To live down there!
We can see our colored faces
Floating on the shaken pool
Down in cool places,
Dim and very cool;
Till a wind or water wrinkle,
Dipping marten, plumping trout,
Spreads in a twinkle
And blots all out.
See the rings pursue each other;
All below grows black as night,
Just as if mother
Had blown out the light!
Patience, children, just a minute--
See the spreading circles die;
The stream and all in it
Will clear by-and-by.
What Man May Learn, What Man May Do
WHAT man may learn, what man may do,
Of right or wrong of false or true,
While, skipper-like, his course he steers
Through nine and twenty mingled years,
Half misconceived and half forgot,
So much I know and practise not.
Old are the words of wisdom, old
The counsels of the wise and bold:
To close the ears, to check the tongue,
To keep the pining spirit young;
To act the right, to say the true,
And to be kind whate'er you do.
Thus we across the modern stage
Follow the wise of every age;
And, as oaks grow and rivers run
Unchanged in the unchanging sun,
So the eternal march of man
Goes forth on an eternal plan.
This Gloomy Northern Day
THIS gloomy northern day,
Or this yet gloomier night,
Has moved a something high
In my cold heart; and I,
That do not often pray,
Would pray to-night.
And first on Thee I call
For bread, O God of might!
Enough of bread for all, -
That through the famished town
Cold hunger may lie down
With none to-night.
I pray for hope no less,
Strong-sinewed hope, O Lord,
That to the struggling young
May preach with brazen tongue
Stout Labour, high success,
And bright reward.
And last, O Lord, I pray
For hearts resigned and bold
To trudge the dusty way -
Hearts stored with song and joke
And warmer than a cloak
Against the cold.
If nothing else he had,
He who has this, has all.
This comforts under pain;
This, through the stinging rain,
Keeps ragamuffin glad
Behind the wall.
This makes the sanded inn
A palace for a Prince,
And this, when griefs begin
And cruel fate annoys,
Can bring to mind the joys
Of ages since.
It is very nice to think
The world is full of meat and drink,
With little children saying grace
In every Christian kind of place.
WOULDST thou be free? I think it not, indeed;
But if thou wouldst, attend this simple rede:
When quite contented }thou canst dine at home
Thou shall be free when }
And drink a small wine of the march of Rome;
When thou canst see unmoved thy neighbour's plate,
And wear my threadbare toga in the gate;
When thou hast learned to love a small abode,
And not to choose a mistress A LA MODE:
When thus contained and bridled thou shalt be,
Then, Maximus, then first shalt thou be free.
The most beautiful adventures are not those we go to seek.Robert Louis Stevenson
De Erotio Puella
THIS girl was sweeter than the song of swans,
And daintier than the lamb upon the lawns
Or Curine oyster. She, the flower of girls,
Outshone the light of Erythraean pearls;
The teeth of India that with polish glow,
The untouched lilies or the morning snow.
Her tresses did gold-dust outshine
And fair hair of women of the Rhine.
Compared to her the peacock seemed not fair,
The squirrel lively, or the phoenix rare;
Her on whose pyre the smoke still hovering waits;
Her whom the greedy and unequal fates
On the sixth dawning of her natal day,
My child-love and my playmate - snatcht away.
To Friends At Home
TO friends at home, the lone, the admired, the lost
The gracious old, the lovely young, to May
The fair, December the beloved,
These from my blue horizon and green isles,
These from this pinnacle of distances I,
The unforgetful, dedicate.
The Sun Travels
The sun is not a-bed, when I
At night upon my pillow lie;
Still round the earth his way he takes,
And morning after morning makes.
While here at home, in shining day,
We round the sunny garden play,
Each little Indian sleepy-head
Is being kissed and put to bed.
And when at eve I rise from tea,
Day dawns beyond the Atlantic Sea;
And all the children in the west
Are getting up and being dressed.
I Now, O Friend, Whom Noiselessly The Snows
I NOW, O friend, whom noiselessly the snows
Settle around, and whose small chamber grows
Dusk as the sloping window takes its load:
* * * * *
The kindly hill, as to complete our hap,
Has ta'en us in the shelter of her lap;
Well sheltered in our slender grove of trees
And ring of walls, we sit between her knees;
A disused quarry, paved with rose plots, hung
With clematis, the barren womb whence sprung
The crow-stepped house itself, that now far seen
Stands, like a bather, to the neck in green.
A disused quarry, furnished with a seat
Sacred to pipes and meditation meet
For such a sunny and retired nook.
There in the clear, warm mornings many a book
Has vied with the fair prospect of the hills
That, vale on vale, rough brae on brae, upfills
Halfway to the zenith all the vacant sky
To keep my loose attention. . . .
Horace has sat with me whole mornings through:
And Montaigne gossiped, fairly false and true;
And chattering Pepys, and a few beside
That suit the easy vein, the quiet tide,
The calm and certain stay of garden-life,
Far sunk from all the thunderous roar of strife.
There is about the small secluded place
A garnish of old times; a certain grace
Of pensive memories lays about the braes:
The old chestnuts gossip tales of bygone days.
Here, where some wandering preacher, blest Lazil,
Perhaps, or Peden, on the middle hill
Had made his secret church, in rain or snow,
He cheers the chosen residue from woe.
All night the doors stood open, come who might,
The hounded kebbock mat the mud all night.
Nor are there wanting later tales; of how
Prince Charlie's Highlanders . . .
* * * * *
I have had talents, too. In life's first hour
God crowned with benefits my childish head.
Flower after flower, I plucked them; flower by flower
Cast them behind me, ruined, withered, dead.
Full many a shining godhead disappeared.
From the bright rank that once adorned her brow
The old child's Olympus
* * * * *
Gone are the fair old dreams, and one by one,
As, one by one, the means to reach them went,
As, one by one, the stars in riot and disgrace,
I squandered what . . .
There shut the door, alas! on many a hope
My face is set to the autumnal slope,
Where the loud winds shall . . .
There shut the door, alas! on many a hope,
And yet some hopes remain that shall decide
My rest of years and down the autumnal slope.
* * * * *
Gone are the quiet twilight dreams that I
Loved, as all men have loved them; gone!
I have great dreams, and still they stir my soul on high -
Dreams of the knight's stout heart and tempered will.
Not in Elysian lands they take their way;
Not as of yore across the gay champaign,
Towards some dream city, towered . . .
and my . . .
The path winds forth before me, sweet and plain,
Not now; but though beneath a stone-grey sky
November's russet woodlands toss and wail,
Still the white road goes thro' them, still may I,
Strong in new purpose, God, may still prevail.
* * * * *
I and my like, improvident sailors!
* * * * *
At whose light fall awaking, all my heart
Grew populous with gracious, favoured thought,
And all night long thereafter, hour by hour,
The pageant of dead love before my eyes
Went proudly, and old hopes with downcast head
Followed like Kings, subdued in Rome's imperial hour,
Followed the car; and I . . .
Home, My Little Children, Hear Are Songs For You
COME, my little children, here are songs for you;
Some are short and some are long, and all, all are new.
You must learn to sing them very small and clear,
Very true to time and tune and pleasing to the ear.
Mark the note that rises, mark the notes that fall,
Mark the time when broken, and the swing of it all.
So when night is come, and you have gone to bed,
All the songs you love to sing shall echo in your head.
Envoy For "A Child's Garden Of Verses"
WHETHER upon the garden seat
You lounge with your uplifted feet
Under the May's whole Heaven of blue;
Or whether on the sofa you,
No grown up person being by,
Do some soft corner occupy;
Take you this volume in your hands
And enter into other lands,
For lo! (as children feign) suppose
You, hunting in the garden rows,
Or in the lumbered attic, or
The cellar - a nail-studded door
And dark, descending stairway found
That led to kingdoms underground:
There standing, you should hear with ease
Strange birds a-singing, or the trees
Swing in big robber woods, or bells
On many fairy citadels:
There passing through (a step or so -
Neither mamma nor nurse need know!)
From your nice nurseries you would pass,
Like Alice through the Looking-Glass
Or Gerda following Little Ray,
To wondrous countries far away.
Well, and just so this volume can
Transport each little maid or man
Presto from where they live away
Where other children used to play.
As from the house your mother sees
You playing round the garden trees,
So you may see if you but look
Through the windows of this book
Another child far, far away
And in another garden play.
But do not think you can at all,
By knocking on the window, call
That child to hear you. He intent
Is still on his play-business bent.
He does not hear, he will not look,
Nor yet be lured out of this book.
For long ago, the truth to say,
He has grown up and gone away;
And it is but a child of air
That lingers in the garden there.
Of speckled eggs the birdie sings
And nests among the trees;
The sailor sings of ropes and things
In ships upon the seas.
The children sing in far Japan,
The children sing in Spain;
The organ with the organ man
Is singing in the rain.
Through all the pleasant meadow-side
The grass grew shoulder-high,
Till the shining scythes went far and wide
And cut it down to dry.
Those green and sweetly smelling crops
They led the waggons home;
And they piled them here in mountain tops
For mountaineers to roam.
Here is Mount Clear, Mount Rusty-Nail,
Mount Eagle and Mount High;--
The mice that in these mountains dwell,
No happier are than I!
Oh, what a joy to clamber there,
Oh, what a place for play,
With the sweet, the dim, the dusty air,
The happy hills of hay!
To All That Love The Far And Blue
TO all that love the far and blue:
Whether, from dawn to eve, on foot
The fleeing corners ye pursue,
Nor weary of the vain pursuit;
Or whether down the singing stream,
Paddle in hand, jocund ye shoot,
To splash beside the splashing bream
Or anchor by the willow root:
Or, bolder, from the narrow shore
Put forth, that cedar ark to steer,
Among the seabirds and the roar
Of the great sea, profound and clear;
Or, lastly if in heart ye roam,
Not caring to do else, and hear,
Safe sitting by the fire at home,
Footfalls in Utah or Pamere:
Though long the way, though hard to bear
The sun and rain, the dust and dew;
Though still attainment and despair
Inter the old, despoil the new;
There shall at length, be sure, O friends,
Howe'er ye steer, whate'er ye do -
At length, and at the end of ends,
The golden city come in view.
We see you as we see a face
That trembles in a forest place
Upon the mirror of a pool
Forever quiet, clear and cool;
And in the wayward glass, appears
To hover between smiles and tears,
Elfin and human, airy and true,
And backed by the reflected blue.
The Summer Sun Shone Round Me
THE summer sun shone round me,
The folded valley lay
In a stream of sun and odour,
That sultry summer day.
The tall trees stood in the sunlight
As still as still could be,
But the deep grass sighed and rustled
And bowed and beckoned me.
The deep grass moved and whispered
And bowed and brushed my face.
It whispered in the sunshine:
"The winter comes apace."
Come, Here Is Adieu To The City
COME, here is adieu to the city
And hurrah for the country again.
The broad road lies before me
Watered with last night's rain.
The timbered country woos me
With many a high and bough;
And again in the shining fallows
The ploughman follows the plough.
The whole year's sweat and study,
And the whole year's sowing time,
Comes now to the perfect harvest,
And ripens now into rhyme.
For we that sow in the Autumn,
We reap our grain in the Spring,
And we that go sowing and weeping
Return to reap and sing.
To Charles Baxter
OUR Johnie's deid. The mair's the pity!
He's deid, an' deid o' Aqua-vitae.
O Embro', you're a shrunken city,
Noo Johnie's deid!
Tak hands, an' sing a burial ditty
Ower Johnie's heid.
Lo! In Thine Honest Eyes I Read
LO! in thine honest eyes I read
The auspicious beacon that shall lead,
After long sailing in deep seas,
To quiet havens in June ease.
Thy voice sings like an inland bird
First by the seaworn sailor heard;
And like road sheltered from life's sea
Thine honest heart is unto me.
I WILL make you brooches and toys for your delight
Of bird-song at morning and star-shine at night.
I will make a palace fit for you and me,
Of green days in forests and blue days at sea.
I will make my kitchen, and you shall keep your room,
Where white flows the river and bright blows the broom,
And you shall wash your linen and keep your body white
In rainfall at morning and dewfall at night.
And this shall be for music when no one else is near,
The fine song for singing, the rare song to hear!
That only I remember, that only you admire,
Of the broad road that stretches and the roadside fire.