Underwoods

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And happier than I, alas! (Dumb thing, I envy its delight) 'Twill wish you well, the looking-glass, And look you in the face to-night.

1869.

IX - TO K. DE M.

A lover, of the moorland bare And honest country winds, you were; The silver-skimming rain you took; And loved the floodings of the brook, Dew, frost and mountains, fire and seas, Tumultuary silences, Winds that in darkness fifed a tune, And the high-riding, virgin moon.

And as the berry, pale and sharp, Springs on some ditch's counterscarp In our ungenial, native north - You put your frosted wildings forth, And on the heath, afar from man, A strong and bitter virgin ran.

The berry ripened keeps the rude And racy flavour of the wood. And you that loved the empty plain All redolent of wind and rain, Around you still the curlew sings - The freshness of the weather clings - The maiden jewels of the rain Sit in your dabbled locks again.

X - TO N. V. DE G. S.

The unfathomable sea, and time, and tears, The deeds of heroes and the crimes of kings Dispart us; and the river of events Has, for an age of years, to east and west More widely borne our cradles. Thou to me Art foreign, as when seamen at the dawn Descry a land far off and know not which. So I approach uncertain; so I cruise Round thy mysterious islet, and behold Surf and great mountains and loud river-bars, And from the shore hear inland voices call.

Strange is the seaman's heart; he hopes, he fears; Draws closer and sweeps wider from that coast; Last, his rent sail refits, and to the deep His shattered prow uncomforted puts back. Yet as he goes he ponders at the helm Of that bright island; where he feared to touch, His spirit readventures; and for years, Where by his wife he slumbers safe at home, Thoughts of that land revisit him; he sees The eternal mountains beckon, and awakes Yearning for that far home that might have been.

XI - TO WILL. H. LOW

Youth now flees on feathered foot Faint and fainter sounds the flute, Rarer songs of gods; and still Somewhere on the sunny hill, Or along the winding stream, Through the willows, flits a dream; Flits but shows a smiling face, Flees but with so quaint a grace, None can choose to stay at home, All must follow, all must roam.

This is unborn beauty: she Now in air floats high and free, Takes the sun and breaks the blue; - Late with stooping pinion flew Raking hedgerow trees, and wet Her wing in silver streams, and set Shining foot on temple roof: Now again she flies aloof, Coasting mountain clouds and kiss't By the evening's amethyst.

In wet wood and miry lane, Still we pant and pound in vain; Still with leaden foot we chase Waning pinion, fainting face; Still with gray hair we stumble on, Till, behold, the vision gone!

Where hath fleeting beauty led? To the doorway of the dead. Life is over, life was gay: We have come the primrose way.

XII - TO MRS. WILL. H. LOW

Even in the bluest noonday of July, There could not run the smallest breath of wind But all the quarter sounded like a wood; And in the chequered silence and above The hum of city cabs that sought the Bois, Suburban ashes shivered into song. A patter and a chatter and a chirp And a long dying hiss - it was as though Starched old brocaded dames through all the house Had trailed a strident skirt, or the whole sky Even in a wink had over-brimmed in rain.

Hark, in these shady parlours, how it talks Of the near Autumn, how the smitten ash Trembles and augurs floods! O not too long In these inconstant latitudes delay, O not too late from the unbeloved north Trim your escape! For soon shall this low roof Resound indeed with rain, soon shall your eyes Search the foul garden, search the darkened rooms, Nor find one jewel but the blazing log.

12 Rue Vernier, Paris

XIII - TO H. F. BROWN

(Written during a dangerous sickness.)

I sit and wait a pair of oars On cis-Elysian river-shores. Where the immortal dead have sate, `Tis mine to sit and meditate; To re-ascend life's rivulet, Without remorse, without regret; And sing my ALMA GENETRIX Among the willows of the Styx.

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Robert Louis Stevenson

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Robert Louis Stevenson
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