Robert Louis Stevenson, A Record, An Estimate, A Memorial, by A.H. Japp

Chapter XXXIV

Letters and Poems in Testimony

AMONG many letters received by me in acknowledgment of, or in commentary on, my little tributes to R. L. Stevenson, in various journals and magazines, I find the following, which I give here for reasons purely personal, and because my readers may with me, join in admiration of the fancy, grace and beauty of the poems. I must preface the first poem by a letter, which explains the genesis of the poem, and relates a striking and very touching incident:

“DEAR SIR, — As you have written so much about your friend, the late Robert Louis Stevenson, and quoted many tributes to his genius from contemporary writers, I take the liberty of sending you herewith some verses of mine which appeared in THE WEEKLY SUN of November last. I sent a copy of these verses to Samoa, but unfortunately the great novelist died before they reached it. I have, however, this week, received a little note from Mrs Strong, which runs as follows:

“‘Your poem of “Greeting” came too late. I can only thank you by sending a little moss that I plucked from a tree overhanging his grave on Vaea Mountain.’

“I trust you will appreciate my motive in sending you the poem. I do not wish to obtrude my claims as a verse-writer upon your notice, but I thought the incident I have recited would be interesting to one who is so devoted a collector of Stevensoniana. - Respectfully yours,

F. J. COX.”

GREETING

(TO ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON, IN SAMOA)

We, pent in cities, prisoned in the mart,

Can know you only as a man apart,

But ever-present through your matchless art.

You have exchanged the old, familiar ways

For isles, where, through the range of splendid days,

Her treasure Nature lavishly displays.

There, by the gracious sweep of ampler seas,

That swell responsive to the odorous breeze.

You have the wine of Life, and we the lees!

You mark, perchance, within your island bowers,

The slow departure of the languorous hours,

And breathe the sweetness of the strange wild-flowers.

And everything your soul and sense delights —

But in the solemn wonder of your nights,

When Peace her message on the landscape writes;

When Ocean scarcely flecks her marge with foam —

Your thoughts must sometimes from your island roam,

To centre on the sober face of Home.

Though many a league of water rolls between

The simple beauty of an English scene,

From all these wilder charms your love may wean.

Some kindly sprite may bring you as a boon

Sweets from the rose that crowns imperial June,

Or reminiscence of the throstle’s tune;

Yea, gladly grant you, with a generous hand,

Far glimpses of the winding, wind-swept strand,

The glens and mountains of your native land,

Until you hear the pipes upon the breeze —

But wake unto the wild realities

The tangled forests and the boundless seas!

For lo! the moonless night has passed away,

A sudden dawn dispels the shadows grey,

The glad sea moves and hails the quickening day.

New life within the arbours of your fief

Awakes the blossom, quivers in the leaf,

And splendour flames upon the coral reef.

If such a prospect stimulate your art,

More than our meadows where the shadows dart,

More than the life which throbs in London’s heart,

Then stay, encircled by your Southern bowers,

And weave, amid the incense of the flowers,

The skein of fair romance — the gain is ours!

F. J. COX.

WEEKLY SUN, 11TH November 1904.

R. L. S., IN MEMORIAM.

AN elfin wight as e’er from faeryland

Came to us straight with favour in his eyes,

Of wondrous seed that led him to the prize

Of fancy, with the magic rod in hand.

Ah, there in faeryland we saw him stand,

As for a while he walked with smiles and sighs,

Amongst us, finding still the gem that buys

Delight and joy at genius’s command.

And now thy place is empty: fare thee well;

Thou livest still in hearts that owe thee more

Than gold can reckon; for thy richer store

Is of the good that with us aye most dwell.

Farewell; sleep sound on Vaea’s windy shrine,

While round the songsters join their song to thine.

A. C. R.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 22:30