I have always enjoyed reading R L Stevenson’s books – especially Treasure Island! His stories were all very thrilling and adventurous. I was not aware of his poetry for a long time and when I finally chanced upon them I realized what a genius he truly was.
“Robert Louis Stevenson was a Scottish novelist, poet, essayist, and travel writer. He is best known as the author of the children’s classic Treasure Island, and the adult horror story, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Both of these novels have curious origins. A map of an imaginary island gave Stevenson the idea for the first story, and a nightmare supplied the premise of the second. In addition to memorable origins, these tales also share Stevenson’s key theme: the impossibility of identifying and separating good and evil. Today’s poem is from “A Child’s Garden of Verses” – a collection of poetry for children. The collection first appeared in 1885 under the title Penny Whistles, but has been reprinted many times, often in illustrated versions.”
To Any Reader by Robert Louis Stevenson
As from the house your mother sees
You playing round the garden trees,
So you may see, if you will look
Through the windows of this book,
Another child, far, far away,
And in another garden, play.
But do not think you can at all,
By knocking on the window, call
That child to hear you. He intent
Is all on his play-business bent.
He does not hear, he will not look,
Nor yet be lured out of this book.
For, long ago, the truth to say,
He has grown up and gone away,
And it is but a child of air
That lingers in the garden there.
What an imagination! The poet is talking to us about this child who is a character within the pages of a book. He tells us that we can watch him but not reach out to him. This is because what we see is perhaps the lingering ‘feel’ of the child, who has long since grown up and moved away. According to the poet, we could say that all characters in a book continue to keep living even after the book is over. We are just given a glimpse of their lives within the book and nothing more! What we need to remember is that the story continues…