(Poem #20) Requiem
Under the wide and starry sky Dig the grave and let me lie. Glad did I live and gladly die, And I laid me down with a will. This be the verse you grave for me; "Here he lies where he longed to be, Home is the sailor, home from sea, And the hunter home from the hill."
This poem more or less speaks for itself; it was inscribed on Stevenson's gravestone as an epitaph. RLS is a lot better known for his marvellous romances, such as Treasure Island and Kidnapped; though I'd hesitate to call his poetry 'brilliant', it is nonetheless well-written and enjoyable, with simple but nicely rhythmic and often surprisingly memorable phrases. The penultimate line is often given as 'home from _the_ sea'; while I have no idea which is the correct version, I prefer the one above. Biographical Note: [Stevenson] had shown a desire to write early in life, and once in his teens he had deliberately set out to learn the writer's craft by imitating a great variety of models in prose and verse. His youthful enthusiasm for the Covenanters (i.e., those Scotsmen who banded together to defend their version of Presbyterianism in the 17th century) led to his writing The Pentland Rising, his first printed work. During his years at the university he rebelled against his parents' religion and set himself up as a liberal bohemian who abhorred the alleged cruelties and hypocrisies of bourgeois respectability. [...] Stevenson was frequently abroad, most often in France. Two of his journeys produced An Inland Voyage (1878) and Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes (1879). His career as a writer developed slowly. [...] It was these early essays, carefully wrought, quizzically meditative in tone, and unusual in sensibility, that first drew attention to Stevenson as a writer. -- Encyclopaedia Britannica Criticism: Stevenson's literary reputation has also fluctuated. The reaction against him set in soon after his death: he was considered a mannered and imitative essayist or only a writer of children's books. But eventually the pendulum began to swing the other way, and by the 1950s his reputation was established among the more discerning as a writer of originality and power; whose essays at their best are cogent and perceptive renderings of aspects of the human condition; whose novels are either brilliant adventure stories with subtle moral overtones or original and impressive presentations of human action in terms of history and topography as well as psychology; whose short stories produce some new and effective permutations in the relation between romance and irony or manage to combine horror and suspense with moral diagnosis; whose poems, though not showing the highest poetic genius, are often skillful, occasionally (in his use of Scots, for example) interesting and original, and sometimes (in A Child's Garden) valuable for their exhibition of a special kind of sensibility. -- E.B. Martin