Saturday, 13 November 2010

A Saturday Celebration: Robert Louis Stevenson

Welcome to the One Stop Saturday Celebration

 Robert Louis Stevenson







Today is a celebration of the birth of travel writer, essayist, poet & novelist, Robert Lewis Balfour Stevenson. Born 13th November 1850 in Edinburgh, Scotland. Most famous for his novels, Treasure Island, Kidnapped & The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde; Stevenson was also an accomplished poet.

Born into a family of devout Presbyterian's, his father was a leading lighthouse engineer and son of Robert Stevenson, the famed designer and builder of lighthouses. Stevenson was an only child and his strange looks and eccentric behavior in childhood often made it hard for him to fit in, coupled with his tendency to illness in cold weather, meant that he was prone to long absences from school; he spent most of his time in the hands of a private tutor.

Although Stevenson was a late reader, he often dictated stories to his mother and these stories brought great interest from his own father. Robert's father openly encouraged them, having been slighted by his own father when he was told to "give up such nonsense and mind your business" squelching an interest in writing.

In 1867, Stevenson was to enter the University of Edinburgh to study engineering, but he had no love for this and would devote much of his time to avoiding lectures. Writing was in his blood, and prominent at this time was his relationship with his cousin, Robert Alan Mowbray Stevenson, who had turned his back on the family profession to chose the study of art.

Through the years, and his constant struggle with ill health during cold spells, Stevenson settled in warmer areas. Southern England, France & America were often popular destinations. After a trip in 1888 to the Pacific, he fell in love with this area. It was in Hawaii that he met the actual Dr Hyde, a Presbyterian Minister working in Honolulu.

In 1890, he settled in Upolu, one of the Samoan Islands. It was here, at the age of 44, that he died on the 3rd December, 1894. Having enjoyed a meal with his wife he was to exclaim, "Whats that? Does my face look strange?" Before collapsing and dying a few hours later of a cerebral hemorrhage. Such was the respect held for him by the Samoan Islanders that they surrounded him with a watch guard during the night before carrying him on their shoulders to Mount Vaea to be buried overlooking the sea.

Robert Louis Stevenson is best known for his novels, Kidnapped, Adventure Island, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde, The Master of Ballantree, The Black Arrow, short stories such as The Body Snatchers and many more but it is his poetry that I wish to celebrate today;

Stevenson was a prolific poet who also wrote two series, A Child's Garden of Verses (1885) & Underwoods (1887). The poetry that I wish to share with you today is a random selection of his work that I hope you will enjoy.

One Stop brings you the poetry of Robert Louis Stevenson, 1850 - 1894

The Sick Child

Child --
O mother, lay your hand on my brow!
O mother, mother, where am I now?
Why is the room so gaunt and great?
Why am I lying awake so late?

Mother --
Fear not at all: the night is still.
Nothing is here that means you ill --
Nothing but lamps the whole town through,
And never a child awake but you.

Child --
Mother, mother, speak low in my ear,
Some of the things are so great and near,
Some are so small and far away,
I have a fear that I cannot say.
What have I done, and what do I fear,
And why are you crying, mother dear?

Mother --
Out in the city, sounds begin,
Thank the kind God, the carts come in!
An hour or two more and God is so kind,
The day shall be blue in the windowblind,
Then shall my child go sweetly asleep,
And dream of the birds and the hills of sheep.

*************

Come. My Beloved Hear From Me

Come, my beloved, hear from me
Tales of the woods or open sea.
Let our aspiring fancy rise
A wren's flight higher toward the skies;
Or far from cities, brown and bare,
Play at the least in open air.
In all the tales men hear us tell
Still let the unfathomed ocean swell,
Or shallower forest sound abroad
Below the lonely stars of God;
In all, let something still be done,
Still in a corner shine the sun,
Slim-ankled maids be fleet of foot,
Nor man disown the rural flute.
Still let the hero from the start
In honest sweat and beats of heart
Push on along the untrodden road
For some inviolate abode.
Still, O beloved, let me hear
The great bell beating far and near-
The odd, unknown, enchanted gong
That on the road hales men along,
That from the mountain calls afar,
That lures a vessel from a star,
And with a still, aerial sound
Makes all the earth enchanted ground.
Love, and the love of life and act
Dance, live and sing through all our furrowed tract;
Till the great God enamoured gives
To him who reads, to him who lives,
That rare and fair romantic strain
That whoso hears must hear again.

*************

The Land Of Nod

From breakfast on through all the day
At home among my friends I stay,
But every night I go abroad
Afar into the land of Nod.

All by myself I have to go,
With none to tell me what to do--
All alone beside the streams
And up the mountain-sides of dreams.

The strangest things are these for me,
Both things to eat and things to see,
And many frightening sights abroad
Till morning in the land of Nod.

Try as I like to find the way,
I never can get back by day,
Nor can remember plain and clear
The curious music that I hear.

*************

My Bed is a Boat

My bed is like a little boat;
Nurse helps me in when I embark;
She girds me in my sailor's coat
And starts me in the dark.

At night I go on board and say
Good-night to all my friends on shore;
I shut my eyes and sail away
And see and hear no more.

And sometimes things to bed I take,
As prudent sailors have to do;
Perhaps a slice of wedding-cake,
Perhaps a toy or two.

All night across the dark we steer;
But when the day returns at last,
Safe in my room beside the pier,
I find my vessel fast.

This is just a small selection of the poetry written by Robert Louis Stevenson, of which Internet searches will throw up over 100 such gems. What amazes me most about Stevenson is for someone who died at such a young age he was so prolific with his work...an amazing writer that I am truly pleased to have had the opportunity to celebrate.

Image courtesy wikipedia

14 comments:

Pete Marshall said...

a sick child....always makes me weep...how did this make you feel? pete

Glynn said...

Ad a child, I read Jekyll & Hyde, Kidnapped and The Black Arrow (I loved The Black Arrow) but it was only recently that I started reading his poetry. Great post.

dustus said...

Pete, I enjoy your posts that pay homage to legends and key figures in literature. This post is no exception. (Was also a nice surprise to see Google's homepage decorated in honor of Stevenson's Birthday). Such an interesting life he led. Indeed a prolific writer who left his mark on the world. A great One Stop Saturday celebration. Cheers

Chris G. said...

Hmm, like Glynn I knew the man for Jekyll and Hyde, but I never knew he was a poet. Very interesting and informative--great post, and tribute.

libithina said...

Warm ~ Have always loved the little boat ride ~ treasure island ~ silver characters made immortal ~ enchanted reads ~ he truly did leave his mark ~ thanks Pete

hedgewitch said...

Stevenson's one of the most readable authors I know, and one of those that hooked me on books and reading as a child. His poetry, like his life, was fascinating, as well as full of an immediacy about childhood that most adults lose. Thanks for a look at some of his poems besides the well-known Requiem.

moondustwriter said...

I love the poems that you chose Pete.

I was weaned on Stevenson and then grew hair on my chest when I read Kidnapped (JK) You can read a prevalent gloom that hangs over much of his poetry

Happy Birthday Mr. Stevenson

Miranda said...

Thank goodness his father encouraged him! Imagine if he didn't, would we have these books and poems?

It's interesting that he wrote such adventure tales when in reality, he was often too sick to go outside.

I didn't know he wrote poetry so thanks for sharing!
Miranda<3

Beachanny said...

Stevenson's poems and Mother Goose preceded me to grade school. I still have my original copy of The Black Arrow on my book shelf. I love that you put this up today.

Claudia said...

Stevenson's poem "the sick child" reminded me strongly of "der Erlk├Ânig" of Johann Wolfgang Goethe - a poem we learned in school and despite the sad end (the child died of fever) i've always loved it.
thanks pete - really enjoyed the birthday celebration!

Hope said...

love the poems you chose. Amazing talent he was!

thank you for celebrating this awesome writer

signed...bkm said...

a favourite author of mine...love the land of nod....did not now all this info on his background and upbringing...blessed we are to have had him an author so timeless ...great choice peter....bkm

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Talei said...

A great way to celebrate RL Stevenson special day. I love these poems, especially the Land of Nod. I also enjoyed A Sick Child - thanks for sharing these.