A Child's Garden of Verses, by Robert Louis Stevenson

A Child’s Garden of Verses

Bed in Summer

In winter I get up at night

And dress by yellow candle-light.

In summer quite the other way,

I have to go to bed by day.

I have to go to bed and see

The birds still hopping on the tree,

Or hear the grown-up people’s feet

Still going past me in the street.

And does it not seem hard to you,

When all the sky is clear and blue,

And I should like so much to play,

To have to go to bed by day?

A Thought

It is very nice to think

The world is full of meat and drink,

With little children saying grace

In every Christian kind of place.

At the Sea-Side

When I was down beside the sea

A wooden spade they gave to me

 To dig the sandy shore.

My holes were empty like a cup.

In every hole the sea came up,

 Till it could come no more.

Young Night-Thought

All night long and every night,

When my mama puts out the light,

I see the people marching by,

As plain as day before my eye.

Armies and emperor and kings,

All carrying different kinds of things,

And marching in so grand a way,

You never saw the like by day.

So fine a show was never seen

At the great circus on the green;

For every kind of beast and man

Is marching in that caravan.

As first they move a little slow,

But still the faster on they go,

And still beside me close I keep

Until we reach the town of Sleep.

Whole Duty of Children

A child should always say what’s true

And speak when he is spoken to,

And behave mannerly at table;

At least as far as he is able.


The rain is falling all around,

 It falls on field and tree,

It rains on the umbrellas here,

 And on the ships at sea.

Pirate Story

Three of us afloat in the meadow by the swing,

 Three of us abroad in the basket on the lea.

Winds are in the air, they are blowing in the spring,

 And waves are on the meadow like the waves there are at sea.

Where shall we adventure, today that we’re afloat,

 Wary of the weather and steering by a star?

Shall it be to Africa, a-steering of the boat,

 To Providence, or Babylon or off to Malabar?

Hi! but here’s a squadron a-rowing on the sea —

 Cattle on the meadow a-charging with a roar!

Quick, and we’ll escape them, they’re as mad as they can be,

 The wicket is the harbour and the garden is the shore.

Foreign Lands

Up into the cherry tree

Who should climb but little me?

I held the trunk with both my hands

And looked abroad in foreign lands.

I saw the next door garden lie,

Adorned with flowers, before my eye,

And many pleasant places more

That I had never seen before.

I saw the dimpling river pass

And be the sky’s blue looking-glass;

The dusty roads go up and down

With people tramping in to town.

If I could find a higher tree

Farther and farther I should see,

To where the grown-up river slips

Into the sea among the ships,

To where the roads on either hand

Lead onward into fairy land,

Where all the children dine at five,

And all the playthings come alive.

Windy Nights

Whenever the moon and stars are set,

 Whenever the wind is high,

All night long in the dark and wet,

 A man goes riding by.

Late in the night when the fires are out,

Why does he gallop and gallop about?

Whenever the trees are crying aloud,

 And ships are tossed at sea,

By, on the highway, low and loud,

 By at the gallop goes he.

By at the gallop he goes, and then

By he comes back at the gallop again.


I should like to rise and go

Where the golden apples grow; —

Where below another sky

Parrot islands anchored lie,

And, watched by cockatoos and goats,

Lonely Crusoes building boats; —

Where in sunshine reaching out

Eastern cities, miles about,

Are with mosque and minaret

Among sandy gardens set,

And the rich goods from near and far

Hang for sale in the bazaar; —

Where the Great Wall round China goes,

And on one side the desert blows,

And with the voice and bell and drum,

Cities on the other hum; —

Where are forests hot as fire,

Wide as England, tall as a spire,

Full of apes and cocoa-nuts

And the negro hunters’ huts; —

Where the knotty crocodile

Lies and blinks in the Nile,

And the red flamingo flies

Hunting fish before his eyes; —

Where in jungles near and far,

Man-devouring tigers are,

Lying close and giving ear

Lest the hunt be drawing near,

Or a comer-by be seen

Swinging in the palanquin; —

Where among the desert sands

Some deserted city stands,

All its children, sweep and prince,

Grown to manhood ages since,

Not a foot in street or house,

Not a stir of child or mouse,

And when kindly falls the night,

In all the town no spark of light.

There I’ll come when I’m a man

With a camel caravan;

Light a fire in the gloom

Of some dusty dining room;

See the pictures on the walls,

Heroes, fights and festivals;

And in a corner find the toys

Of the old Egyptian boys.


Of speckled eggs the birdie sings

 And nests among the trees;

The sailor sings of ropes and things

 In ships upon the seas.

The children sing in far Japan,

 The children sing in Spain;

The organ with the organ man

 Is singing in the rain.

Looking Forward

When I am grown to man’s estate

I shall be very proud and great,

And tell the other girls and boys

Not to meddle with my toys.

A Good Play

We built a ship upon the stairs

All made of the back-bedroom chairs,

And filled it full of sofa pillows

To go a-sailing on the billows.

We took a saw and several nails,

And water in the nursery pails;

And Tom said, “Let us also take

An apple and a slice of cake;”—

Which was enough for Tom and me

To go a-sailing on, till tea.

We sailed along for days and days,

And had the very best of plays;

But Tom fell out and hurt his knee,

So there was no one left but me.

Where Go the Boats?

Dark brown is the river,

 Golden is the sand.

It flows along for ever,

 With trees on either hand.

Green leaves a-floating,

 Castles of the foam,

Boats of mine a-boating —

 Where will all come home?

On goes the river

 And out past the mill,

Away down the valley,

 Away down the hill.

Away down the river,

 A hundred miles or more,

Other little children

 Shall bring my boats ashore.

Auntie’s Skirts

Whenever Auntie moves around,

Her dresses make a curious sound,

They trail behind her up the floor,

And trundle after through the door.

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.

The Land of Nod

From breakfast on through all the day

At home among my friends I stay,

But every night I go abroad

Afar into the land of Nod.

All by myself I have to go,

With none to tell me what to do —

All alone beside the streams

And up the mountain-sides of dreams.

The strangest things are these for me,

Both things to eat and things to see,

And many frightening sights abroad

Till morning in the land of Nod.

Try as I like to find the way,

I never can get back by day,

Nor can remember plain and clear

The curious music that I hear.

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 goes 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 behind 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.


Every night my prayers I say,

And get my dinner every day;

And every day that I’ve been good,

I get an orange after food.

The child that is not clean and neat,

With lots of toys and things to eat,

He is a naughty child, I’m sure —

Or else his dear papa is poor.

A Good Boy

I woke before the morning, I was happy all the day,

I never said an ugly word, but smiled and stuck to play.

And now at last the sun is going down behind the wood,

And I am very happy, for I know that I’ve been good.

My bed is waiting cool and fresh, with linen smooth and fair,

And I must be off to sleepsin-by, and not forget my prayer.

I know that, till tomorrow I shall see the sun arise,

No ugly dream shall fright my mind, no ugly sight my eyes.

But slumber hold me tightly till I waken in the dawn,

And hear the thrushes singing in the lilacs round the lawn.

Escape at Bedtime

The lights from the parlour and kitchen shone out

 Through the blinds and the windows and bars;

And high overhead and all moving about,

 There were thousands of millions of stars.

There ne’er were such thousands of leaves on a tree,

 Nor of people in church or the Park,

As the crowds of the stars that looked down upon me,

 And that glittered and winked in the dark.

The Dog, and the Plough, and the Hunter, and all,

 And the star of the sailor, and Mars,

These shown in the sky, and the pail by the wall

 Would be half full of water and stars.

They saw me at last, and they chased me with cries,

 And they soon had me packed into bed;

But the glory kept shining and bright in my eyes,

 And the stars going round in my head.

Marching Song

Bring the comb and play upon it!

 Marching, here we come!

Willie cocks his highland bonnet,

 Johnnie beats the drum.

Mary Jane commands the party,

 Peter leads the rear;

Feet in time, alert and hearty,

 Each a Grenadier!

All in the most martial manner

 Marching double-quick;

While the napkin, like a banner,

 Waves upon the stick!

Here’s enough of fame and pillage,

 Great commander Jane!

Now that we’ve been round the village,

 Let’s go home again.

The Cow

The friendly cow all red and white,

 I love with all my heart:

She gives me cream with all her might,

 To eat with apple-tart.

She wanders lowing here and there,

 And yet she cannot stray,

All in the pleasant open air,

 The pleasant light of day;

And blown by all the winds that pass

 And wet with all the showers,

She walks among the meadow grass

 And eats the meadow flowers.

Happy Thought

The world is so full of a number of things,

 I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.

The Wind

I saw you toss the kites on high

And blow the birds about the sky;

And all around I heard you pass,

Like ladies’ skirts across the grass —

 O wind, a-blowing all day long,

 O wind, that sings so loud a song!

I saw the different things you did,

But always you yourself you hid.

I felt you push, I heard you call,

I could not see yourself at all —

 O wind, a-blowing all day long,

 O wind, that sings so loud a song!

O you that are so strong and cold,

O blower, are you young or old?

Are you a beast of field and tree,

Or just a stronger child than me?

 O wind, a-blowing all day long,

 O wind, that sings so loud a song!

Keepsake Mill

Over the borders, a sin without pardon,

 Breaking the branches and crawling below,

Out through the breach in the wall of the garden,

 Down by the banks of the river we go.

Here is a mill with the humming of thunder,

 Here is the weir with the wonder of foam,

Here is the sluice with the race running under —

 Marvellous places, though handy to home!

Sounds of the village grow stiller and stiller,

 Stiller the note of the birds on the hill;

Dusty and dim are the eyes of the miller,

 Deaf are his ears with the moil of the mill.

Years may go by, and the wheel in the river

 Wheel as it wheels for us, children, today,

Wheel and keep roaring and foaming for ever

 Long after all of the boys are away.

Home for the Indies and home from the ocean,

 Heroes and soldiers we all will come home;

Still we shall find the old mill wheel in motion,

 Turning and churning that river to foam.

You with the bean that I gave when we quarrelled,

 I with your marble of Saturday last,

Honoured and old and all gaily apparelled,

 Here we shall meet and remember the past.

Good and Bad Children

Children, you are very little,

And your bones are very brittle;

If you would grow great and stately,

You must try to walk sedately.

You must still be bright and quiet,

And content with simple diet;

And remain, through all bewild’ring,

Innocent and honest children.

Happy hearts and happy faces,

Happy play in grassy places —

That was how in ancient ages,

Children grew to kings and sages.

But the unkind and the unruly,

And the sort who eat unduly,

They must never hope for glory —

Theirs is quite a different story!

Cruel children, crying babies,

All grow up as geese and gabies,

Hated, as their age increases,

By their nephews and their nieces.

Foreign Children

Little Indian, Sioux, or Crow,

Little frosty Eskimo,

Little Turk or Japanee,

Oh! don’t you wish that you were me?

You have seen the scarlet trees

And the lions over seas;

You have eaten ostrich eggs,

And turned the turtles off their legs.

Such a life is very fine,

But it’s not so nice as mine:

You must often as you trod,

Have wearied not to be abroad.

You have curious things to eat,

I am fed on proper meat;

You must dwell upon the foam,

But I am safe and live at home.

 Little Indian, Sioux or Crow,

 Little frosty Eskimo,

 Little Turk or Japanee,

Oh! don’t you wish that you were me?

The Sun Travels

The sun is not a-bed, when I

At night upon my pillow lie;

Still round the earth his way he takes,

And morning after morning makes.

While here at home, in shining day,

We round the sunny garden play,

Each little Indian sleepy-head

Is being kissed and put to bed.

And when at eve I rise from tea,

Day dawns beyond the Atlantic Sea;

And all the children in the west

Are getting up and being dressed.

The Lamplighter

My tea is nearly ready and the sun has left the sky.

It’s time to take the window to see Leerie going by;

For every night at teatime and before you take your seat,

With lantern and with ladder he comes posting up the street.

Now Tom would be a driver and Maria go to sea,

And my papa’s a banker and as rich as he can be;

But I, when I am stronger and can choose what I’m to do,

O Leerie, I’ll go round at night and light the lamps with you!

For we are very lucky, with a lamp before the door,

And Leerie stops to light it as he lights so many more;

And oh! before you hurry by with ladder and with light;

O Leerie, see a little child and nod to him to-night!

My Bed is a Boat

My bed is like a little boat;

 Nurse helps me in when I embark;

She girds me in my sailor’s coat

 And starts me in the dark.

At night I go on board and say

 Good-night to all my friends on shore;

I shut my eyes and sail away

 And see and hear no more.

And sometimes things to bed I take,

 As prudent sailors have to do;

Perhaps a slice of wedding-cake,

 Perhaps a toy or two.

All night across the dark we steer;

 But when the day returns at last,

Safe in my room beside the pier,

 I find my vessel fast.

The Moon

The moon has a face like the clock in the hall;

She shines on thieves on the garden wall,

On streets and fields and harbour quays,

And birdies asleep in the forks of the trees.

The squalling cat and the squeaking mouse,

The howling dog by the door of the house,

The bat that lies in bed at noon,

All love to be out by the light of the moon.

But all of the things that belong to the day

Cuddle to sleep to be out of her way;

And flowers and children close their eyes

Till up in the morning the sun shall arise.

The Swing

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,

River 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!

Time to Rise

A birdie with a yellow bill

Hopped upon my window sill,

Cocked his shining eye and said:

“Ain’t you ‘shamed, you sleepy-head!”

Looking-Glass River

Smooth it glides upon its travel,

 Here a wimple, there a gleam —

   O the clean gravel!

   O the smooth stream!

Sailing blossoms, silver fishes,

 Paven pools as clear as air —

   How a child wishes

   To live down there!

We can see our colored faces

 Floating on the shaken pool

   Down in cool places,

   Dim and very cool;

Till a wind or water wrinkle,

 Dipping marten, plumping trout,

   Spreads in a twinkle

   And blots all out.

See the rings pursue each other;

 All below grows black as night,

   Just as if mother

   Had blown out the light!

Patience, children, just a minute —

 See the spreading circles die;

   The stream and all in it

   Will clear by-and-by.

Fairy Bread

Come up here, O dusty feet!

 Here is fairy bread to eat.

Here in my retiring room,

Children, you may dine

On the golden smell of broom

 And the shade of pine;

And when you have eaten well,

Fairy stories hear and tell.

From a Railway Carriage

Faster than fairies, faster than witches,

Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches;

And charging along like troops in a battle

All through the meadows the horses and cattle:

All of the sights of the hill and the plain

Fly as thick as driving rain;

And ever again, in the wink of an eye,

Painted stations whistle by.

Here is a child who clambers and scrambles,

All by himself and gathering brambles;

Here is a tramp who stands and gazes;

And here is the green for stringing the daisies!

Here is a cart run away in the road

Lumping along with man and load;

And here is a mill, and there is a river:

Each a glimpse and gone forever!


Late lies the wintry sun a-bed,

A frosty, fiery sleepy-head;

Blinks but an hour or two; and then,

A blood-red orange, sets again.

Before the stars have left the skies,

At morning in the dark I rise;

And shivering in my nakedness,

By the cold candle, bathe and dress.

Close by the jolly fire I sit

To warm my frozen bones a bit;

Or with a reindeer-sled, explore

The colder countries round the door.

When to go out, my nurse doth wrap

Me in my comforter and cap;

The cold wind burns my face, and blows

Its frosty pepper up my nose.

Black are my steps on silver sod;

Thick blows my frosty breath abroad;

And tree and house, and hill and lake,

Are frosted like a wedding cake.

The Hayloft

Through all the pleasant meadow-side

 The grass grew shoulder-high,

Till the shining scythes went far and wide

 And cut it down to dry.

Those green and sweetly smelling crops

 They led in waggons home;

And they piled them here in mountain tops

 For mountaineers to roam.

Here is Mount Clear, Mount Rusty-Nail,

 Mount Eagle and Mount High; —

The mice that in these mountains dwell,

 No happier are than I!

Oh, what a joy to clamber there,

 Oh, what a place for play,

With the sweet, the dim, the dusty air,

 The happy hills of hay!

Farewell to the Farm

The coach is at the door at last;

The eager children, mounting fast

And kissing hands, in chorus sing:

Good-bye, good-bye, to everything!

To house and garden, field and lawn,

The meadow-gates we swang upon,

To pump and stable, tree and swing,

Good-bye, good-bye, to everything!

And fare you well for evermore,

O ladder at the hayloft door,

O hayloft where the cobwebs cling,

Good-bye, good-bye, to everything!

Crack goes the whip, and off we go;

The trees and houses smaller grow;

Last, round the woody turn we sing:

Good-bye, good-bye, to everything!

North-West Passage

1. Good-Night

When the bright lamp is carried in,

The sunless hours again begin;

O’er all without, in field and lane,

The haunted night returns again.

Now we behold the embers flee

About the firelit hearth; and see

Our faces painted as we pass,

Like pictures, on the window glass.

Must we to bed indeed? Well then,

Let us arise and go like men,

And face with an undaunted tread

The long black passage up to bed.

Farewell, O brother, sister, sire!

O pleasant party round the fire!

The songs you sing, the tales you tell,

Till far tomorrow, fare you well!

2. Shadow March

All around the house is the jet-black night;

 It stares through the window-pane;

It crawls in the corners, hiding from the light,

 And it moves with the moving flame.

Now my little heart goes a beating like a drum,

 With the breath of the Bogies in my hair;

And all around the candle the crooked shadows come,

 And go marching along up the stair.

The shadow of the balusters, the shadow of the lamp,

 The shadow of the child that goes to bed —

All the wicked shadows coming tramp, tramp, tramp,

 With the black night overhead.

3. In Port

Last, to the chamber where I lie

My fearful footsteps patter nigh,

And come out from the cold and gloom

Into my warm and cheerful room.

There, safe arrived, we turn about

To keep the coming shadows out,

And close the happy door at last

On all the perils that we past.

Then, when mamma goes by to bed,

She shall come in with tip-toe tread,

And see me lying warm and fast

And in the land of Nod at last.


Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00