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Robert Louis Stevenson and walking poems

June 24, 2014

Few writers wrote as well about walking and travel as Robert Louis Stevenson. His essay on walking and his “Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes” are worth seeking out. In most second hand bookshops you can find ancient volumes of his walking and travel works.

Journeying, particularly in Scotland, inspired some of his finest poetry, as with the examples I give below:

Sing me a song of a lad that is gone

Sing me a song of a lad that is gone,
      Say, could that lad be I?
Merry of soul he sailed on a day
      Over the sea to Skye.

 

Mull was astern, Rum on the port,
      Eigg on the starboard bow;
Glory of youth glowed in his soul;
      Where is that glory now?

 

Sing me a song of a lad that is gone,
      Say, could that lad be I?
Merry of soul he sailed on a day
      Over the sea to Skye.

 

Give me again all that was there,
      Give me the sun that shone!
Give me the eyes, give me the soul,
      Give me the lad that’s gone!

 

Sing me a song of a lad that is gone,
      Say, could that lad be I?
Merry of soul he sailed on a day
      Over the sea to Skye.

 

Billow and breeze, islands and seas,
      Mountains of rain and sun,
All that was good, all that was fair,
      All that was me is gone.
And
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.

and
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.

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