Here’s a lesser-known choice from Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses, which I was reminded of yesterday by a peachy homeschooling friend whose son decided to turn a Playmobil figure into Don Quixote…
by Robert Louis Stevenson
Dear Uncle Jim, this garden ground
That now you smoke your pipe around,
Has seen immortal actions done
And valiant battles lost and won.
Here we had best on tip-toe tread,
While I for safety march ahead,
For this is that enchanted ground
Where all who loiter slumber sound.
Here is the sea, here is the sand,
Here is the simple Shepherd’s Land,
Here are the fairy hollyhocks,
And there are Ali Baba’s rocks.
But yonder, see! apart and high,
Frozen Siberia lies; where I,
With Robert Bruce William Tell,
Was bound by an enchanter’s spell.
There, then, awhile in chains we lay,
In wintry dungeons, far from day;
But ris’n at length, with might and main,
Our iron fetters burst in twain.
Than all the horns were blown in town;
And to the ramparts clanging down,
All the giants leaped to horse
And charged behind us through the gorse.
On we rode, the others and I,
Over the mountains blue, and by
The Silent River, the sounding sea,
And the robber woods of Tartary.
Our edition of A Child’s Garden of Verses is small and leatherbound, just the right size for small hands. It has lovely, simple line drawings by Hilda Goldwag that don’t detract from the poems, and a moving introduction by Elizabeth Goudge:
Because he set himself to be happy R.L.S. can make us happy. He is one of those writers who accompany us through life. The child enchanted with the verses in this book becomes the boy or girl thrilled to the marrow by Kidnapped and Treasure Island, the man or woman delighting in all the novels and adult poems, in the Vailima Letters and the prayers that he wrote in his exile. He goes with us right through from youth to age, and then we find that we are back again where we started, with A Child’s Garden of Verses, and perhaps they are the best after all.