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

Garden Days

Night and Day

When the golden day is done,

 Through the closing portal,

Child and garden, flower and sun,

 Vanish all things mortal.

As the building shadows fall

 As the rays diminish,

Under evening’s cloak they all

 Roll away and vanish.

Garden darkened, daisy shut,

 Child in bed, they slumber —

Glow-worm in the hallway rut,

 Mice among the lumber.

In the darkness houses shine,

 Parents move the candles;

Till on all the night divine

 Turns the bedroom handles.

Till at last the day begins

 In the east a-breaking,

In the hedges and the whins

 Sleeping birds a-waking.

In the darkness shapes of things,

 Houses, trees and hedges,

Clearer grow; and sparrow’s wings

 Beat on window ledges.

These shall wake the yawning maid;

 She the door shall open —

Finding dew on garden glade

 And the morning broken.

There my garden grows again

 Green and rosy painted,

As at eve behind the pane

 From my eyes it fainted.

Just as it was shut away,

 Toy-like, in the even,

Here I see it glow with day

 Under glowing heaven.

Every path and every plot,

 Every blush of roses,

Every blue forget-me-not

 Where the dew reposes,

“Up!” they cry, “the day is come

 On the smiling valleys:

We have beat the morning drum;

 Playmate, join your allies!”

Nest Eggs

Birds all the sunny day

 Flutter and quarrel

Here in the arbour-like

 Tent of the laurel.

Here in the fork

 The brown nest is seated;

Four little blue eggs

 The mother keeps heated.

While we stand watching her

 Staring like gabies,

Safe in each egg are the

 Bird’s little babies.

Soon the frail eggs they shall

 Chip, and upspringing

Make all the April woods

 Merry with singing.

Younger than we are,

 O children, and frailer,

Soon in the blue air they’ll be,

 Singer and sailor.

We, so much older,

 Taller and stronger,

We shall look down on the

 Birdies no longer.

They shall go flying

 With musical speeches

High overhead in the

 Tops of the beeches.

In spite of our wisdom

 And sensible talking,

We on our feet must go

 Plodding and walking.

The Flowers

All the names I know from nurse:

Gardener’s garters, Shepherd’s purse,

Bachelor’s buttons, Lady’s smock,

And the Lady Hollyhock.

Fairy places, fairy things,

Fairy woods where the wild bee wings,

Tiny trees for tiny dames —

These must all be fairy names!

Tiny woods below whose boughs

Shady fairies weave a house;

Tiny tree-tops, rose or thyme,

Where the braver fairies climb!

Fair are grown-up people’s trees,

But the fairest woods are these;

Where, if I were not so tall,

I should live for good and all.

Summer Sun

Great is the sun, and wide he goes

Through empty heaven with repose;

And in the blue and glowing days

More thick than rain he showers his rays.

Though closer still the blinds we pull

To keep the shady parlour cool,

Yet he will find a chink or two

To slip his golden fingers through.

The dusty attic spider-clad

He, through the keyhole, maketh glad;

And through the broken edge of tiles

Into the laddered hay-loft smiles.

Meantime his golden face around

He bares to all the garden ground,

And sheds a warm and glittering look

Among the ivy’s inmost nook.

Above the hills, along the blue,

Round the bright air with footing true,

To please the child, to paint the rose,

The gardener of the World, he goes.

The Dumb Soldier

When the grass was closely mown,

Walking on the lawn alone,

In the turf a hole I found,

And hid a soldier underground.

Spring and daisies came apace;

Grasses hide my hiding place;

Grasses run like a green sea

O’er the lawn up to my knee.

Under grass alone he lies,

Looking up with leaden eyes,

Scarlet coat and pointed gun,

To the stars and to the sun.

When the grass is ripe like grain,

When the scythe is stoned again,

When the lawn is shaven clear,

Then my hole shall reappear.

I shall find him, never fear,

I shall find my grenadier;

But for all that’s gone and come,

I shall find my soldier dumb.

He has lived, a little thing,

In the grassy woods of spring;

Done, if he could tell me true,

Just as I should like to do.

He has seen the starry hours

And the springing of the flowers;

And the fairy things that pass

In the forests of the grass.

In the silence he has heard

Talking bee and ladybird,

And the butterfly has flown

O’er him as he lay alone.

Not a word will he disclose,

Not a word of all he knows.

I must lay him on the shelf,

And make up the tale myself.

Autumn Fires

In the other gardens

 And all up the vale,

From the autumn bonfires

 See the smoke trail!

Pleasant summer over

 And all the summer flowers,

The red fire blazes,

 The grey smoke towers.

Sing a song of seasons!

 Something bright in all!

Flowers in the summer,

 Fires in the fall!

The Gardener

The gardener does not love to talk.

He makes me keep the gravel walk;

And when he puts his tools away,

He locks the door and takes the key.

Away behind the currant row,

Where no one else but cook may go,

Far in the plots, I see him dig,

Old and serious, brown and big.

He digs the flowers, green, red, and blue,

Nor wishes to be spoken to.

He digs the flowers and cuts the hay,

And never seems to want to play.

Silly gardener! summer goes,

And winter comes with pinching toes,

When in the garden bare and brown

You must lay your barrow down.

Well now, and while the summer stays,

To profit by these garden days

O how much wiser you would be

To play at Indian wars with me!

Historical Associations

Dear Uncle Jim, this garden ground

That now you smoke your pipe around,

Has seen immortal actions done

And valiant battles lost and won.

Here we had best on tip-toe tread,

While I for safety march ahead,

For this is that enchanted ground

Where all who loiter slumber sound.

Here is the sea, here is the sand,

Here is simple Shepherd’s Land,

Here are the fairy hollyhocks,

And there are Ali Baba’s rocks.

But yonder, see! apart and high,

Frozen Siberia lies; where I,

With Robert Bruce and William Tell,

Was bound by an enchanter’s spell.


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