Treasure Island

Robert Louis Stevenson

(1850-1894 / Edinburgh / Scotland)

fragments


About my fields, in the broad sun
And blaze of noon, there goeth one,
Barefoot and robed in blue, to scan
With the hard eye of the husbandman
My harvests and my cattle. Her,
When even puts the birds astir
And day has set in the great woods,
We seek, among her garden roods,
With bells and cries in vain: the while
Lamps, plate, and the decanter smile
On the forgotten board. But she,
Deaf, blind, and prone on face and knee,
Forgets time, family, and feast,
And digs like a demented beast.

Tall as a guardsman, pale as the east at dawn,
Who strides in strange apparel on the lawn?
Rails for his breakfast? routs his vassals out
(Like boys escaped from school) with song and shout?
Kind and unkind, his Maker's final freak,
Part we deride the child, part dread the antique!
See where his gang, like frogs, among the dew
Crouch at their duty, an unquiet crew;
Adjust their staring kilts; and their swift eyes
Turn still to him who sits to supervise.
He in the midst, perched on a fallen tree,
Eyes them at labour; and, guitar on knee,
Now ministers alarm, now scatters joy,
Now twangs a halting chord, now tweaks a boy.
Thorough in all, my resolute vizier
Plays both the despot and the volunteer,
Exacts with fines obedience to my laws,
And for his music, too, exacts applause.

The Adorner of the uncomely - those
Amidst whose tall battalions goes
Her pretty person out and in
All day with an endearing din,
Of censure and encouragement;
And when all else is tried in vain
See her sit down and weep again.
She weeps to conquer;
She varies on her grenadiers
From satire up to girlish tears!

Or rather to behold her when
She plies for me the unresting pen,
And when the loud assault of squalls
Resounds upon the roof and walls,
And the low thunder growls and I
Raise my dictating voice on high.

What glory for a boy of ten
Who now must three gigantic men
And two enormous, dapple grey
New Zealand pack-horses array
And lead, and wisely resolute
Our day-long business execute
In the far shore-side town. His soul
Glows in his bosom like a coal;
His innocent eyes glitter again,
And his hand trembles on the rein.
Once he reviews his whole command,
And chivalrously planting hand
On hip - a borrowed attitude -
Rides off downhill into the wood.

I meanwhile in the populous house apart
Sit snugly chambered, and my silent art
Uninterrupted, unremitting ply
Before the dawn, by morning lamplight, by
The glow of smelting noon, and when the sun
Dips past my westering hill and day is done;
So, bending still over my trade of words,
I hear the morning and the evening birds,
The morning and the evening stars behold;
So there apart I sit as once of old
Napier in wizard Merchiston; and my
Brown innocent aides in home and husbandry
Wonder askance. What ails the boss? they ask.
Him, richest of the rich, an endless task
Before the earliest birds or servants stir
Calls and detains him daylong prisoner?
He whose innumerable dollars hewed
This cleft in the boar and devil-haunted wood,
And bade therein, from sun to seas and skies,
His many-windowed, painted palace rise
Red-roofed, blue-walled, a rainbow on the hill,
A wonder in the forest glade: he still,

Unthinkable Aladdin, dawn and dark,
Scribbles and scribbles, like a German clerk.
We see the fact, but tell, O tell us why?
My reverend washman and wise butler cry.
Meanwhile at times the manifold
Imperishable perfumes of the past
And coloured pictures rise on me thick and fast:
And I remember the white rime, the loud
Lamplitten city, shops, and the changing crowd;
And I remember home and the old time,
The winding river, the white moving rhyme,
The autumn robin by the river-side
That pipes in the grey eve.

The old lady (so they say), but I
Admire your young vitality.
Still brisk of foot, still busy and keen
In and about and up and down.

I hear you pass with bustling feet
The long verandahs round, and beat
Your bell, and "Lotu! Lotu!" cry;
Thus calling our queer company,
In morning or in evening dim,
To prayers and the oft mangled hymn.

All day you watch across the sky
The silent, shining cloudlands ply,
That, huge as countries, swift as birds,
Beshade the isles by halves and thirds,
Till each with battlemented crest
Stands anchored in the ensanguined west,
An Alp enchanted. All the day
You hear the exuberant wind at play,
In vast, unbroken voice uplift,
In roaring tree, round whistling clift.

Submitted: Tuesday, December 31, 2002

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