Here’s a clue, an apt one from the carnage outside my window:
I saw you toss the kites on high And blow the birds about the sky; And all around I heard you pass, Like ladies’ skirts across the grass – O wind, a blowing all day long, O wind, that sings so loud a song!
I saw the different things you did, But always you yourself you hid. I felt you push, I heard you call, I could not see yourself at all – O wind, a blowing all day long, O wind, that sings so loud a song!
O you that are so strong and cold, O blower, are you young or old? Are you a beast of field or tree, Or just a stronger child than me? O wind, a blowing all day long, O wind, that sings so loud a song!
Robert Louis Stevenson, it’s his day, RLS Day, the anniversary of his birth in 1850, and a good time to dip into some of the works he left us from his short, but full, 44 years.
The above verses, The Wind, could only come from his Child’s Book of Verse. It’s a good day to stop and think, to reflect, and to dip into some of his marvellous writing, or even to read again of his life and his struggles, with health and with family. Forty four years, ’tis but a blip – where did the last 44 go, and what lies in store for the next 44? The latter is hypothetical for 99 is not a realistic target, more a frightening one.
Anyway, back to himself. Here’s a line you might recall:
My tea is nearly ready and the sun has left the sky;
Oh, go on, finish the verse, cast your mind back.
And do you have a favourite Stevenson book? Did it start with Treasure Island, or with the chase across the moors, Kidnapped, shipwrecked on Erraid; or perhaps after with Catriona. It’s writing to take you beyond childhood, with Jekyll maybe, or Weir, or a Donkey in the Cevennes. There are so many works written on or about the man, of his life, at home and abroad. And it shows no sign of ending yet, thankfully.
So whilst you think of what you have or haven’t read, and I cast my eyes across the shelves, here’s another of his poems to help you on the way. It may seem apt.
Give to me the life I love, Let the lave go by me, Give the jolly heaven above And the byway nigh me. Bed in the bush with stars to see, Bread I dip in the river – There’s the life for a man like me, There’s the life for ever.
Let the blow fall soon or late, Let what will be o’er me; Give the face of earth around And the road before me. Wealth I seek not, hope nor love, Nor a friend to know me; All I seek, the heaven above And the road below me.
Or let autumn fall on me Where afield I linger, Silencing the bird on tree, Biting the blue finger. White as meal the frosty field – Warm the fireside haven – Not to autumn will I yield, Not to winter even!
Let the blow fall soon or late, Let what will be o’er me; Give the face of earth around, And the road before me. Wealth I ask not, hope nor love, Nor a friend to know me. All I ask, the heaven above And the road below me.
That, my friends, was The Vagabond (to an air of Schubert), from his Songs of Travel, (with apologies for the formatting to suit wordpress).
RLS – what’s your favourite? It’s a good day to read it again, or explore the ones that remain strangers to you.