Tag Archives: Robert Lewis Stevenson

Block City

Baby at Play. Thomas Eakins. 1876.


Block City

Robert Louis Stevenson, 1913


What are you able to build with your blocks?

Castles and palaces, temples and docks.

Rain may keep raining, and others go roam,

But I can be happy and building at home.


Let the sofa be mountains, the mountains be sea,

There I’ll establish a city for me:

A kirk and a mill and a palace beside,

And a harbor as well where my vessels may ride.


Great is the palace with pillar and wall,

A sort of a tower on the top of it all,

And steps coming down in an orderly way

To where my toy vessels lie safe in the bay.


This one is sailing and that one is moored:

Hak to the song of the sailor on board!

And see on the steps of my palace the kings

Coming and going with presents and things!


Now I have done with it, down let it go!

All in a moment the town is laid low.

Block upon block lying scattered and free,

What is there left of my town by the sea?


Yet as I saw it, I see it again,

The kirk and the palace, the ships and the men,

And as long as I live and where’er I may be,

I’ll always remember my town by the sea.

The Land of Story-books

A Monster. Charles Burton Barber. 1866.


The Land of Story-books

Robert Lewis Stevenson, 1913


At evening when the lamp is lit,

Around the fire my parents sit;

They sit at home and talk and sing,

And do not play at anything.


Now, with my little gun I crawl

All in the dark along the wall,

And follow round the forest track

Away behind the sofa back.


There, in the night, where none can spy,

All in my hunter’s camp I lie,

And play at books that I have read

Till it is time to go to bed.


These are the hills, these are the woods,

These are my starry solitudes;

And there the river by whose brink

The roaring lions come to drink.


I see the others far away

As if in firelit camp they lay,

And I, like to an Indian scout,

Around their party prowled about.


So, when my nurse comes in for me,

Home I return across the sea,

And go to bed with backward looks

At my dear land of Story-books.


A Fine Picture—Barber’s playful painting illustrates Stevenson’s poem with a twist.—A little girl enacts the role of the “roaring lion” rather than that of the hunter.

A Little Poetry—Stevenson’s poems for children, published as A Child’s Garden of Verses, are remarkable for their sensitive understanding of a child’s imaginative play.

The Swing

The Swing. Pierre Auguste Renoir. 1876.


The Swing

Robert Louis Stevenson, 1885


How do you like to go up in a swing,

Up in the air so blue?

Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing

Ever a child can do!


Up in the air and over the wall,

Till I can see so wide,

Rivers and trees and cattle and

All over the countryside—

Till I look down on the garden green,

Down on the roof so brown—

Up in the air I go flying again,

Up in the air and down!

The Little Land

The Titan's Goblet. Thomas Cole. 1833.


The Little Land

Robert Lewis Stevenson, 1913


When at home alone I sit

And am very tired of it,

I have just to shut my eyes

To go sailing through the skies—

To go sailing far away

To the Pleasant Land of Play;

To the fairy-land afar

Where the Little People are;

Where the clover tops are trees,

And the rain-pools are the seas,

And the leaves like little ships

Sail about on tiny trips;

And above the daisy tree

Through the grasses,

High o’erhead the Bumble Bee

Hums and passes.


In that forest to and fro

I can wander, I can go;

See the spider and the fly,

And the ants go marching by

Carrying parcels with their feet

Down the green and grassy street.

I can in the sorrel sit

Where the ladybird alit.

I can climb the jointed grass

And on high

See the greater swallows pass

In the sky,

And the round sun rolling by

Heeding no such things as I.


Through that forest I can pass

Till, as in a looking-glass,

Humming fly and daisy tree

And my tiny self I see,

Painted very clear and neat

On the rain-pool at my feet.

Should a leaflet come to land

Drifting near to where I stand,

Straight I’ll board that tiny boat

Round the rain-pool sea to float.


Little thoughtful creatures sit

On the grassy coasts of it;

Little things with lovely eyes

See me sailing with surprise.

Some are clad in armor green—

(These have sure to battle been!)—

Some are pied with ev’ry hue,

Black and crimson, gold and blue;

Some have wings and swift are gone;—

But they all look kindly on.


When my eyes I once again

Open, and see all things plain:

High bare walls, great bare floor;

Great big knobs on drawer and door;

Great big people perched on chairs,

Stitching tucks and mending tears,

Each a hill that I could climb,

And talking nonsense all the time—

O dear me,

That I could be

A sailor on the rain-pool sea,

A climber in the clover tree,

And just come back, a sleepy-head,

Late at night to go to bed.