Underwoods

Page 09

All that life contains of torture, toil, and treason, Shame, dishonour, death, to him were but a name. Here, a boy, he dwelt through all the singing season And ere the day of sorrow departed as he came.

DAVOS, 1881.

XXVIII - TO MY FATHER

Peace and her huge invasion to these shores Puts daily home; innumerable sails Dawn on the far horizon and draw near; Innumerable loves, uncounted hopes To our wild coasts, not darkling now, approach: Not now obscure, since thou and thine are there, And bright on the lone isle, the foundered reef, The long, resounding foreland, Pharos stands.

These are thy works, O father, these thy crown; Whether on high the air be pure, they shine Along the yellowing sunset, and all night Among the unnumbered stars of God they shine;

Or whether fogs arise and far and wide The low sea-level drown - each finds a tongue And all night long the tolling bell resounds: So shine, so toll, till night be overpast, Till the stars vanish, till the sun return, And in the haven rides the fleet secure.

In the first hour, the seaman in his skiff Moves through the unmoving bay, to where the town Its earliest smoke into the air upbreathes And the rough hazels climb along the beach. To the tugg'd oar the distant echo speaks. The ship lies resting, where by reef and roost Thou and thy lights have led her like a child.

This hast thou done, and I - can I be base? I must arise, O father, and to port Some lost, complaining seaman pilot home.

XXIX - IN THE STATES

With half a heart I wander here As from an age gone by A brother - yet though young in years. An elder brother, I.

You speak another tongue than mine, Though both were English born. I towards the night of time decline, You mount into the morn.

Youth shall grow great and strong and free, But age must still decay: To-morrow for the States - for me, England and Yesterday.

SAN FRANCISCO.

XXX - A PORTRAIT

I am a kind of farthing dip, Unfriendly to the nose and eyes; A blue-behinded ape, I skip Upon the trees of Paradise.

At mankind's feast, I take my place In solemn, sanctimonious state, And have the air of saying grace While I defile the dinner plate.

I am "the smiler with the knife," The battener upon garbage, I - Dear Heaven, with such a rancid life, Were it not better far to die?

Yet still, about the human pale, I love to scamper, love to race, To swing by my irreverent tail All over the most holy place;

And when at length, some golden day, The unfailing sportsman, aiming at, Shall bag, me - all the world shall say: THANK GOD, AND THERE'S AN END OF THAT!

XXXI

Sing clearlier, Muse, or evermore be still, Sing truer or no longer sing! No more the voice of melancholy Jacques To wake a weeping echo in the hill; But as the boy, the pirate of the spring, From the green elm a living linnet takes, One natural verse recapture - then be still.

XXXII - A CAMP (1)

The bed was made, the room was fit, By punctual eve the stars were lit; The air was still, the water ran, No need was there for maid or man, When we put up, my ass and I, At God's green caravanserai.

(1) From TRAVELS WITH A DONKEY

XXXIII - THE COUNTRY OF THE CAMISARDS (1)

We travelled in the print of olden wars, Yet all the land was green, And love we found, and peace, Where fire and war had been.

They pass and smile, the children of the sword - No more the sword they wield; And O, how deep the corn Along the battlefield!

(1) From TRAVELS WITH A DONKEY

XXXIV - SKERRYVORE

For love of lovely words, and for the sake Of those, my kinsmen and my countrymen, Who early and late in the windy ocean toiled To plant a star for seamen, where was then The surfy haunt of seals and cormorants: I, on the lintel of this cot, inscribe The name of a strong tower.

XXXV - SKERRYVORE: THE PARALLEL

Here all is sunny, and when the truant gull Skims the green level of the lawn, his wing Dispetals roses; here the house is framed Of kneaded brick and the plumed mountain pine, Such clay as artists fashion and such wood As the tree-climbing urchin breaks.

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Robert Louis Stevenson

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Robert Louis Stevenson
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