Poems of the Week: R.L. Stevenson for Children plus a wretched imitator

Some of my own childhood favorites from A Child's Garden of Verses.

A Thought

It is very nice to think
The world is full of meat and drink,
With little children saying grace
In every Christian kind of place.
The Land of Counterpane
When I was sick and lay a-bed,
I had two pillows at my head,
And all my toys beside me lay
To keep me happy all the day.
And sometimes for an hour or so
I watched my leaden soldiers go,
With different uniforms and drills,
Among the bed-clothes, through the hills;
And sometimes sent my ships in fleets
All up and down among the sheets;
Or brought my trees and houses out,
And planted cities all about.
I was the giant great and still
That sits upon the pillow-hill,
And sees before him, dale and plain,
The pleasant land of counterpane.
Young Night-Thought
All night long and every night,
When my mama puts out the light,
I see the people marching by,
As plain as day, before my eye.
Armies and emperors and kings,
All carrying different kinds of things,
And marching in so grand a way,
You never saw the like by day.
So fine a show was never seen
At the great circus on the green;
For every kind of beast and manIs marching in that caravan.
At first they move a little slow,
But still the faster on they go,
And still beside them close
I keepUntil we reach the town of Sleep.
A Boys's Life
By the wretched modern imitator

Blood seeped into the maplewood

that crowned his bedroom wall, a mermaid

risen with red hair seaweed streaming,

Redskins glided upstream hunting

enemy game in their long canoe--

what was it that they were not looking at?

From the eaves, voices when he was alone

announced a chilling rendez-vous.

Ran rivers he’d never seen

behind his eyes, and sunlit hills

flickered past the windows of trains

he’d never ridden in his life.

The wind was stuttering strange demands

to the branches listening across the roof.

When morning came the colors of his dreams

fled back into the furniture

as if the room itself revived.

Old now and in a room

he’d never seen when he was the boy

but might have dreamed he had who knows?

The colors fade, he dreams in gray,

not even white and black but still

he hears the voices in the eaves

and tells himself it's time really, to call

the workmen to stuff up the holes

where the birds nest and the mice play.

Avatar photo

Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

3 Responses

  1. James D. says:

    My daughter loves The Swing and The Land of Counterpane. Her three favorite poems are The Swing, The Early Morning by Hilaire Belloc and Silverly by Dennis Lee. I really enjoy A Child’s Garden of Verses.

  2. Christopher Check says:

    Beautiful poem by the imitator!

  3. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Speaking on behalf of the writer, who prefers to remain anonymous, I thank you. Frankly, it was only in posting and formatting the Stevenson poems that I realized how much “A Boy’s Life” was indebted to him.