A Child’s Garden of Verses (1885)

Happy Thought

The world is so full of a number of things,
I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.

Robert Louis Stevenson wrote the very simple poems collected in A Child’s Garden of Verses between 1881 and 1884,  in between work on Treasure Island and severe bouts of illness. It was originally meant to include illustrations by the (then) famous book illustrator, Randolph Caldecott, but he died in 1884 and the book was published unillustrated.

Numerous editions have been published since then, illustrated by various artists. My Penguin edition is illustrated with lovely black and white line drawings which it claims are by Eve Garnett (1900-91) whose work is sort of relaxed and scatty in a 1940s and 50s way. Except they’re not by her. Research on Google Images reveals they’re by the much more precisely drawn (and old-fashioned and twee) Millicent Sowerby (1878-1967).

Reviewers on Amazon suggest the optimal age of the audience for these poems is four. Sounds about right.

The Land of Counterpane

When I was sick and lay a-bed,
I had two pillows at my head,
And all my toys beside me lay
To keep me happy all the day.

And sometimes for an hour or so
I watched my leaden soldiers go,
With different uniforms and drills,
Among the bed-clothes, through the hills.

And sometimes sent my ships in fleets
All up and down among the sheets;
Or brought my trees and houses out,
And planted cities all about.

I was the giant great and still
That sits upon the pillow-hill,
And sees before him, dale and plain
The pleasant Land of Counterpane.

Millicent Sowerby Illustration to 'A Child's Garden of Verses'

Millicent Sowerby illustration to ‘A Child’s Garden of Verses’ by Robert Louis Stevenson

My Shadow

I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,
And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.
He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;
And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed.

The funniest thing about him is the way he likes to grow—
Not at all like proper children, which is always very slow;
For he sometimes shoots up taller like an india-rubber ball,
And he sometimes gets so little that there’s none of him at all.

He hasn’t got a notion of how children ought to play,
And can only make a fool of me in every sort of way.
He stays so close beside me, he’s a coward you can see;
I’d think shame to stick to nursie as that shadow sticks to me!

One morning, very early, before the sun was up,
I rose and found the shining dew on every buttercup;
But my lazy little shadow, like an arrant sleepy-head,
Had stayed at home behind me and was fast asleep in bed.

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1 Comment

  1. Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-94) « Books & Boots

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