(Poem #780) The Vagabond
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.
From "Songs of Travel and Other Verses", published in 1896. Meant to be sung "to an air of Schubert", though I don't know which one. Robert Louis Stevenson's verse - energetic, enthusiastic and exciting - is in many ways reminiscent of his prose, and like his prose, it's always fun to read. Readers looking for profound insight or gut-wrenching emotion are likely to be disappointed; equally, though, readers looking for metrical felicity and magical atmospherics are likely to be enchanted. I often think of Stevenson as a mixture of Walter de la Mare and John Masefield: the former for his command of atmosphere, and the latter for his wanderlust. The romance of the open road plays a significant role in Stevenson's writings, yet it's always tempered with a sense of the beauty of stillness, of silence. And while RLS cannot (in all honesty) hold a candle to either de la Mare or Masefield, in many respects he does not miss by much: his poems rarely fail to capture the imagination, and, having captured it, to take it to places it's rarely seen before. thomas. PS. A quick comment on form: note how the steady rhythm of the hexameter drives this poem on, and gives it a vigour befitting its subject. Nicely done. [Links] Stevenson poems on the Minstrels: Poem #20, "Requiem" Poem #84, "From a Railway Carriage" Poem #290, "Bed in Summer" Poem #450, "Auntie's Skirts" The first of these has a biography and some critical information. Walter de la Mare: Poem #2, "The Listeners" Poem #272, "Napoleon" Poem #484, "Brueghel's Winter" Poem #725, "Silver" John Masefield: Poem #27, "Sea Fever" Poem #74, "Cargoes" Poem #555, "Trade Winds" Poem #695, "Beauty" Poem #702, "Night is on the Downland" Poem #758, "Sea-Change" The Poet's Corner has many more poems by RLS, including the complete text of "Songs of Travel"  and of "A Child's Garden of Verses" .  [broken link] http://www.geocities.com/~spanoudi/poems/rls04.html  [broken link] http://www.geocities.com/~spanoudi/poems/rls01.html