Robert Louis Stevenson.

Complete poems: A child's gardens of verses online

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we try.
The lasses in their claes an' the fishes in the sea.

— // 's gey an' easy spierin', says the beggar-wife to


O, I wad like to ken — to tlie beggar-wife says I —

Why lads are a' to sell an' lasses a' to buy ;

An' naebody for dacency but barely twa or three.

— It's gey an' easy spierin, says the beggar-wife to


O, I wad like to ken — to the beggar-wife says I —
Gin death 's as shiire to men as killin' is to kye.
Why God has filled the yearth sae fu' o' tasty things

to pree.
■ — It's gey an' easy spierin', says the beggar-wife to
. me.


O, I wad like to ken — to the beggar-wife says I —
The reason o' the cause an' the wherefore o' the why,
VVi' mony anither riddle brings the tear into my e'e.
— It 's gey an' easy spierin' , says the beggar-wife to



IT 'S rainin'. Weet 's the gairden sod,
Weet the lang roads whaur gangrels plod
A maist unceevil thing o' God

In mid July —
If ye '11 just curse the sneckdraw, dod!
An' sae wuU I !

He 's a braw place in Heev'n, ye ken.
An' lea's us puir, forjaskit men
Clamjamfried in the but and ben

He ca's the earth —
A wee bit inconvenient den

No muckle worth;

An' whiles, at orra times, keeks out,
Sees what puir mankind are about ;
An' if He can, I 've little doubt.

Upsets their plans ;
He hates a' mankind, brainch and root,

And a' that 's man's.

An' whiles, whan they tak heart again,
An' life i' the sun looks braw an' plain.


Doun comes a jaw o' droukin' rain
Upon their honours —

God sends a spate outower the plain,
Or mebbe thun'ers.

Lord safe us, life 's an unco thing!
Simmer an' Winter, Yule an' Spring,
The damned, dour-heartit seasons bring

A feck o' trouble.
I wadnae try't to be a king —

No, nor for double.

But since we 're in it, willy-nilly,

We maun be watchfii', wise an' skilly,

An' no mind ony ither billy,

Lassie nor God.
But drink — that 's my best counsel till 'e

Sae tak the nod.





MY bonny man, the warld, it 's true,
Was made for neither me nor you;'
It 's just a place to warstle through,

As Job confessed o't ;
And aye the best that we '11 can do
Is mak the best o't.

There 's rowth o' wrang, I 'm free to say :
The simmer brunt, the winter blae,
The face of earth a' fyed wi' clay

An' dour wi' chuckles,
An' life a rough an' land'art play

For country buckles.

An' food 's anither name for clart ;
An' beasts an' brambles bite an' scart ;
An' what would we be like, my heart 1

If bared o' claethin'?
— Aweel, I cannae mend your cart :

It 's that or naethin'.

A feck o' folk frae first to last

Have through this queer experience passed;

Twa-three, I ken, just damn an' blast

The hale transaction ;
But twa-three ithers, east an' wast,

Fand satisfaction.


W'haur braid the briery muirs expand,

A waefii' an' a weary land,

The bumblebees, a gowden band,

Are blithely hingin' ;
An' there the canty wanderer fand

The laverock singin'.

Trout in the burn grow great as herr'n ;
The simple sheep can find their fair'n' ;
The wind blaws clean about the cairn

Wi' caller air ;
The muircock an' the barefit bairn

Are happy there.

Sic-like the howes o' life to some :

Green loans whaur they ne 'er fash their thumb.

But mark the muckle winds that come,

Soopin' an' cool,
Or hear the powrin' burnie drum

In the shilfa's pool.

The evil wi' the guid they tak ;
They ca' a gray thing gray, no black ;
To a steigh brae, a stubborn back

Addressin' daily ;
An' up the rude, unbieldly track

O' life, gang gaily.

What you would like 's a palace ha',
Or Sinday parlour dink an' braw
Wi' a' things ordered in a raw

By denty leddies.
Weel than, ye cannae hae 't : that 's a'

That to be said is.


An' since at life ye 've ta'en the grue.
An' winnae blithely hirsle through,
Ye 've fund the very thing to do —

That 's to drink speerit ;
An' shiine we '11 hear the last o' you —

An' blithe to hear it !

The shoon ye coft, the life ye lead,
Ithers will heir when aince ye 're deid ;
They '11 heir your tasteless bite o' breid.

An' find it sappy ;
They '11 to your dulefii' house succeed,

An' there be happy.

As whan a glum an' fractious wean
Has sat an' sullened by his lane
Till, wi' a rowstin' skelp, he 's taen

An' shoo'd to bed —
The ither bairns a' fa' to play'n',

As gleg 's a gled.



IT 'S Strange that God should fash to frame
The yearth and lift sae hie.
An' clean forget to explain the same
To a gentleman like me.

They gutsy, donnered ither folk.
Their weird they weel may dree;

But why present a pig in a poke
To a gentleman like me?


They ither folk their parritch eat

An' sup their sugared tea ;
But the mind is no to be wyled wi' meat

Wi' a gentleman like me.

They ither folk, they court their joes

At gloamin' on the lea ;
But they 're made of a commoner clay, I suppose,

Than a gentleman like me.

They ither folk, for richt or wrang,

They suffer, bleed, or dee ;
But a' thir things are an emp'y sang ,

To a gentleman like me.

It 's a different thing that I demand,

Tho' humble as can be —
A statement fair in my Maker's hand

To a gentleman like me :

A clear account writ fair an' broad,

An' a plain apologie ;
Or the deevil a ceevil word to God

From a gentleman like me.




DEAR Thamson class, whaure'er I gang
It aye comes ower me wi' a spang: ■
" Lordsakc ! they Thamson lads — (deil hang

Or else Lord mend them)! —
An' that zvanchancy annual sang
I ne'er can send them! "

Straucht, at the name, a trusty tyke,
My conscience girrs ahint the dyke ;
Straucht on my hinderlands I fyke

To find a rhyme t' ye ;
Pleased — although mebbe no pleased-like —

To gie my time t' ye.

** WeelJ' an' says you, wi' heavin' breist,
'' Sae far, sac guid, hut what 's the neist?
Yearly we gait her to the feast,

A' hopefu' men —
Yearly zve skelloch ' Hang the beast —

Nae sang again! ' "

My lads, an' what am I to say ?
Ye shiirely ken the Muse's way :
Yestreen, as gleg 's a tyke — the day,

Thrawn like a cuddy :
Her conduc', that to her 's a play,

Deith to a body.


Aft whan I sat an' made my mane,
Aft whan I laboured burd-alane,
Fishin' for rhymes an' findin' nane,

Or nane were fit for ye —
Ye judged me cauld 's a chucky stane —

No car'n' a bit for ye !

But saw ye ne'er some pingein' bairn

As weak as a pitaty-par'n' —

Less iised wi' guidin' horse-shoe airn

Than steerin' crowdie —
Packed aff his lane, by moss an' cairn.

To ca' the howdie.

Wae 's me, for the puir callant than !
He wambles like a poke o' bran.
An* the lowse rein, as hard 's he can,

Pu's, trem'lin' bandit ;
Till, blaff! upon his hinderlan'

Behauld him landit.

Sic-like — I awn the weary fac' —
Whan on my muse the gate I tak,
An' see her gleed e'e raxin' back

To keek ahint her ; —
To me, the brig o' Heev'n gangs black

As blackest winter.

" Lordsake ! zve 're aif,'' thinks I, " hut zvhaurf
On zi'Jiat abhorred an' zvhinny scaur,
Or zvhainmled in zvhat sea 0' glaur,

Will she desert mef
An' zvill she just disgrace f or zvaur —

Will she no hurt me? "


Kittle the quaere! But at least

The day I 've backed the fashious beast,

While she, wi' mony a spang an' reist,

Flang heels ower bonnet;
An' a' triumphant — for your feast,

Hae ! there 's your sonnet !



THE Lord Himsel' in former days
Waled out the proper tiines for praise
An' named the proper kind o' claes

For folk to preach in :
Preceese and in the chief o' ways
Important teachin'.

He ordered a' things late and air' ;
He ordered folk to stand at prayer.
(Although I cannae just mind where

He gave the warnin'.)
An' pit pomatum on their hair

On Sabbath momin'.

The hale o' life by His commands
Was ordered to a body's hands ;
But see! this corpus juris stands

By a' forgotten ;
An' God's religion in a' lands

Is deid an' rotten.

While thus the lave o' mankind 's lost,
O' Scotland still God maks His boast —


Puir Scotland, on whase barren coast

A score or twa
Auld wives wi' mutches an' a hoast

Still keep His law.

In Scotland, a wheen canty, plain,
Douce, kintry-leevin' folk retain
The Truth — or did so aince — alane

Of a' men leevin' ;
An' noo just twa o' them remain — -

Just Begg an' Niven.

For noo, unfaithfii' to the Lord
Auld Scotland Joins the rebel horde;
Her human hymn-books on the board

She noo displays:
An' Embro Hie Kirk 's been restored

In popish ways.

O punctimi fonporis for action
To a' o' the reformin' faction,
If yet, by ony act or paction,

Thocht, word, or sermon,
This dark an' damnable transaction

Micht yet determine !

For see — as Doctor Begg explains —
Hoo easy 't 's diine ! a pickle weans,
\Mia in the Hie Street gaither stanes

By his instruction,
The uncovenantit, pentit panes

Ding to destruction.

Up, Niven, or ower late — an' dash
Laigh in the glaur that carnal hash;


Let spires and pews wi' gran' stramash

Thegether fa' ;
The rumlin' kist o' whustles smash

In pieces sma'.

Noo choose ye out a waie hammer ;
About the knottit buttress clam'er ;
Alang the steep roof stoyt an' stammer,

A gate mis-chancy ;
On the aul' spire, the bells' hie cha'mer.

Dance your bit dancie.

Ding, devel, dunt, destroy, an' ruin,
Wi' carnal stanes the square bestrewin',
Till your loud chaps frae Kyle to Fruin,

Frae Hell to Heeven,
Tell the guid wark that baith are doin' —

Baith Begg an' Niven,


THE Scotsman's return from abroad

{In a letter froffi Mr. Thomson to Mr. yohnstone)

IN mony a foreign pairt I 've been,
An' mony an unco ferlie seen,
Since, Mr. Johnstone, you and I
Last walkit upon Cocklerye.
Wi' gleg, observant een, I pass't
By sea an' land, through East an' Wast,
And still in ilka age an' station
Saw naething but abomination.
In thir uncovenantit lands
The gangrel Scot uplifts his hands

At lack of a' sectarian fiish'n.
An' cauld religious destitution.
He rins, puir man, frae place to place,
Tries a' their graceless means o' grace.
Preacher on preacher, kirk on kirk —
This yin a stot an' thon a stirk —
A bletherin' clan, no warth a preen,
As bad as Smith of Aiberdeen !

At last, across the weary faem,
Frae far, outlandish pairts I came.
On ilka side o' me I fand
Fresh tokens o' my native land.
Wi' whatna joy I hailed them a' —
The hilltaps standin' raw by raw,
The public house, the Hielan' birks.
And a' the bonnv U. P. kirks !


But maistly thee, the bkiid o' Scots,
Frae Maidenkirk to John o' Grots,
The king o' drinks, as I conceive it,
TaHsker, Isla, or GlenHvet !

For after years wi' a pockmantie

Frae Zanzibar to AHcante,

In mony a fash and sair affliction

I gie't as my sincere conviction — •

Of a' their foreign tricks an' pHskies,

I maist abominate their whiskies.

Nae doot, themsels, they ken it weel,

An' wi' a hash o' leemon peel,

And ice an' siccan filth, they ettle

The stawsome kind o' goo to settle ;

Sic wersh apothecary's broos wi'

As Scotsmen scorn to fyle their moo's wi'

An', man, I was a blithe hame-comcr
Whan first I syndit out my rummer.
Ye should hae seen me then, wi' care
The less important pairts prepare ;
Syne, weel contentit wi' it a',
Pour in the speerits wi' a jaw!
I didnae drink, I didnae speak, —
I only snowkit up the reek.
I was sae pleased therin to paidle,
I sat an' plowtered wi' my ladle.

An' blithe was I, the morrow's morn,
To daunder through the stookit corn,
And after a' my strange mishanters,
Sit doun amang my ain dissenters.
An', man, it was a joy to me
The pu'pit an' the pews to see,


The pennies dirlin' in the plate,
The elders lookin' on in state ;
An' 'mang- the first, as it befell,
Wha should I see, sir, but voursel' !

I was, and I will no deny it,

At the first gliff a hantle tryit

To see voursel' in sic a station —

It seemed a doubtfu' dispensation.

The feelin' was a mere digression ;

For shiine I understood the session.

An' mindin' Aiken an' M'Neil,

I wondered they had dune sae weel.

I saw I had mysel' to blame ;

For had I but remained at hame,

Aiblins — though no ava' deservin' 't —

They micht hae named your humble servant.

The kirk was filled, the door was steeked ;

Up to the pu'pit ance I keeked ;

I was mair pleased than I can tell —

It was the minister himsel' !

Proud, proud was I to see his face.

After sae lang awa' frae grace.

Pleased as I was, I 'm no denyin'

Some maitters were not edif yin' ;

For first I fand — an' here was news ! —

Mere hymn-books cockin' in the pews —

A humanised abomination.

Unfit for ony congregation.

Syne, while I still was on the tenter,

I scunnered at the new prezentor;

I thocht him gesterin' an' cauld —

A sair declension frae the auld.


Syne, as though a' the faith was wreckit,
The prayer was not what I 'd exspeckit.
Himsel', as it appeared to me,
Was no the man he iised to be.
But just as I was growin' vext
He waled a maist judeecious text,
An', launchin' into his prelections,
Swoopt, wi' a skirl, on a' defections.

what a gale was on my speerit
To hear the p'ints o' doctrine clearit,
And a' the horrors o' damnation
Set furth wi' faithfii' ministration !
Nae shauchlin' testimony here —

We were a' damned, an' that was clear.

1 owned, wi' gratitude an' wonder,
He was a pleisure to sit under.



1ATE in the nicht in bed I lay,
J The winds were at their weary play.
An' tirlin' wa's an' skirlin' wae

Through Heev'n they battered ; —
On-ding o' hail, on-blaff o' spray,
The tempest blattered.

The masoned house it dinled through ;
It dung the ship, it cowped the coo' ;
The rankit aiks it overthrew,

Had braved a' weathers :
The Strang sea-gleds it took an blew

Awa' like feathers.

The thrawes o' fear on a' were shed.
An' the hair rose, an' slumber fled,
An' lichts were lit an' prayers were said

Through a' the kintry ;
An' the cauld terror clum in bed

Wi' a' an' sindry.

To hear in the pit-mirk on hie

The brangled coUieshangie flie,

The warl', they thocht, wi' land an' sea,

Itsel' wad cowpit;
An' for auld airn, the smashed debris

By God be rowpit.

Meanwhile frae far Aldebaran,
To folks wi' talescopes in han',
O' ships that cowpit, winds that ran,

Nae sign was seen,
But the wee warl' in sunshine span

As bricht 's a preen.


I, tae, by God's especial grace,
Dwall denty in a bieldy place,
Wi' hosened feet, wi' shaven face,

Wi' dacent mainners :
A grand example to the race

C tautit sinners 1

The wind may blaw, the heathen rage.
The deil may start on the rampage ; —
The sick in bed, the thief in cage —

What 's a' to me ?
Cosh in my house, a sober sage,

I sit an' see.

An' whiles the bluid spangs to my bree,
To lie sae saft, to live sae free.
While better men maun do an' die

In unco places.
" Whaiir's God? " I cry, an' " Whae is me

To hae sic graces? "

I mind the fecht the sailors keep.
But fire or can'Ie, rest or sleep,
In darkness an' the muckle deep ;

An' mind beside
The herd that on the hills o' sheep

Has wandered wide.

I mind me on the hoastin' weans —
The penny joes on causey stanes — •
The auld folk wi' the crazy banes,

Baith auld an' puir,
That aye maun thole the winds an' rains.

An' labour sair.


An' whiles I 'm kind o' pleased a blink.
An' kind o' fleyed forby, to think,
For a' my rowth o' meat an' drink

An' waste o' crumb,
I '11 mebbe have to thole wi' skink

In Kingdom Come.

For God whan jowes the Judgment bell,
Wi' His ain Hand, His Leevin' Sel',
Sail ryve the guid (as Prophets tell)

Frae them that had it ;
And in the reamin' pat o' Hell,

The rich be scaddit.

O Lord, if this indeed be sae.
Let draw that sair an' happy day I
Again' the warl', grawn auld an' gray.

Up wi' your aixe !
And let the puir enjoy their play —

I '11 thole my paiks.




OF a' the ills that flesh can fear,
The loss o' frien's, the lack o' gear,
A yowlin' tyke, a glandered mear,

A lassie's nonsense —
There 's just ae thing I cannae bear,
An' that 's my conscience.

Whan day (an' a' excuse) has gane,

An' wark is diine, and duty 's plain,
An' to my chalmer a' my lane

I creep apairt,
My conscience! hoo the yammerin' pain

Stends to my heart !

A' day wi' various ends in view
The hairsts o' time I had to pu'.
An' made a hash wad staw a soo.

Let be a man ! —
My conscience ! whan my ban's were fu',

Whaur were ye then ?

An' there were a' the lures o' life,
There pleesure skirlin' on the fife,
There anger, wi' the hotchin' knife

Ground shairp in Hell —
My conscience ! — you that 's Hke a wife ! —

Whaur was yoursel'?


I ken it fine : just waitin' here,

To gar the evil waur appear,

To clart the g-iiid, confuse the clear,

Misca' the great,
My conscience! an' to raise a steer

When a's ower late.

Sic-like, some tyke grawn auld and blind,
\Mian thieves brok' through the gear to p'ind,
Has lain his dozened length an' grinned

At the disaster;
An' the morn's mornin', wud's the wind,

Yokes on his master.




( Whan the dear doctor, dear to «',
Was still a7?iarig lis here belaw,
I set my pipes his praise to blaw

Wi' a' my s peer it ;
But noOy Dear Doctor I he ''s a7ua\
An^ ne^'r can hear it.)

BY Lyne and Tyne, by Thames and Tees
By a' the various river-Dee's,
In Mars and Manors 'yont the seas

Or here at hame,
Whaur e'er there 's kindly folk to please.
They ken your name.

They ken your name, they ken your tyke,
They ken the honey from your byke ;
But mebbe after a' your fyke,

(The truth to tell)
It 's just your honest Rab they like,

An' no yoursel'.

As at the gowff, some canny play'r
Should tee a common ba' wi' care —
Should flourish and deleever fair

His souple shintie —
An' the ba' rise into the air,

A leevin' lintie:

Sae in the game we writers play,
There comes to some a bonny day,


When a dear ferlie shall repay

Their years o' strife,
An' like your Rab, their things o' clay,

Spreid wings o' life.

Ye scarce deserved it, I 'm afraid —
You that had never learned the trade,
But just some idle mornin' strayed

Into the schiile,
An' picked the fiddle up an' played

Like Neil himsel'.

Your e'e was gleg, your fingers dink ;
Ye didnae fash yoursel' to think,
But wove, as fast as puss can link.

Your denty wab : —
Ye stapped your pen into the ink,

An' there was Rab !

SInsyne, whaure'er your fortune lay
By dowie den, by canty brae.
Simmer an' winter, nicht an' day,

Rab was aye wi' ye;
An' a' the folk on a' the way

Were blithe to see ye.

O sir, the gods are kind indeed,
An' hauld ye for an honoured held,
That for a wee bit clarkit screed

Sae weel reward ye,
An' lend — puir Rabbie bein' dcid — >

His ghaist to guard ye.

For though, whaure'er yourse' may be,
We 've just to turn an' glisk a wee,


An' Rab at heel we 're shiire to see
Wi' gladsome caper :

The bogle of a bogle, he —
A ghaist o' paper !

And as the auld-farrand hero sees

In Hell a bogle Hercules,

Pit there the lesser deid to please,

While he himsel'
Dwalls wi' the muckle gods at ease

Far raised frae hell :

Sae the true Rabbie far has gane

On kindlier business o' his ain

Wi' aulder frien's ; an' his breist-bane

An' stumpie tailie,
He birstles at a new hearth stane

By James and Ailie.


IT 'S an owercome sooth for age an' youth
And it brooks wi' nae denial,
That the dearest friends are the auldest friends
And the young are just on trial.

There 's a rival bauld wi' young an' auld
And it 's him that has bereft me ;

For the surest friends are the auldest friends
And the maist o' mines hae left me.

There are kind hearts still, for friends to fill
And fools to take and break them ;

But the nearest friends are the auldest friends
And the grave 's the place to seek them.




Written principally in tJ:e South Seas, i8S8~l8g4

Copyright, 1895, 1896, by
Charles Scribner's Sons.

(^To an air of Schubert')

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.



ONCE only by the garden g^ate
Our lips we joined and parted
I must fulfil an empty fate
And travel the uncharted.

Hail and farewell! I must arise.
Leave here the fatted cattle,

And paint on foreign lands and skies
My Odyssey of battle.

The untented Kosmos my abode,

I pass, a wilful stranger :
My mistress still the open road

And the bright eyes of danger.

Come ill or well, the cross, the crown.
The rainbow or the thunder,

I fling my soul and body down
For God to plough them under.




TO the heart of youth the world is a highwayside
Passing for ever, he fares ; and on either hand.
Deep in the gardens golden pavilions hide,

Nestle in orchard bloom, and far on the level land
Call him with lighted lamp in the eventide.

Thick as the stars at night when the moon is down,
Pleasures assail him. He to his nobler fate

Fares ; and but waves a hand as he passes on,

Cries but a wayside word to her at the garden gate,

Sings but a boyish stave and his face is gone.



IN dreams, unhappy, I behold you stand
As heretofore :
The unremembered tokens in your hand
Avail no more.

No more the morning glow, no more the grace,

Enshrines, endears.
Cold beats the light of time upon your face

And shows your tears.

He came, he went. Perchance you wept a while

And then forgot.
Ah me ! but he that left you with a smile

Forgets you not.




SHE rested by the Broken Brook
She drank of Weary Well,
She moved beyond my lingering look,
Ah, whither none can tell !

She came, she went. In other lands.

Perchance in fairer skies.
Her hands shall cling with other hands,

Her eyes to other eyes.

She vanished. In the sounding town

Will she remember too?
Will she recall the eyes of brown

As I recall the blue?


THE infinite shining heavens
Rose and I saw in the night
Uncountable angel stars

Showering sorrow and light.

I saw them distant as heaven.
Dumb and shining and dead.

And the idle stars of the night
Were dearer to me than bread.

Night after night in my sorrow
The stars stood over the sea,

Till lo! I looked in the dusk

And a star had come down to me.




PLAIN as the glistering planets shine
When winds have cleaned the skies,
Her love appeared, appealed for mine
And wantoned in her eyes.

Clear as the shining tapers burned

On Cytherea's shrine.
Those brimming, lustrous beauties turned,

And called and conquered mine.

The beacon-lamp that Hero lit

No fairer shone on sea,
No plainlier summoned will and wit.

Than hers encouraged me.

I thrilled to feel her influence near,

I struck my flag at sight.
Her starry silence smote my ear

Like sudden drums at night.

I ran as, at the cannon's roar,

The troops the ramparts man —
As in the holy house of yore

The willing Eli ran.

Here, lady, lo ! that servant stands

You picked from passing men,
And should you need nor heart nor hands

He bows and goes again.



TO you, let snow and roses
And golden Idcks belong-.

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Online LibraryRobert Louis StevensonComplete poems: A child's gardens of verses → online text (page 6 of 12)