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


To Willie and Henrietta

 If two may read aright

 These rhymes of old delight

 And house and garden play,

You two, my cousins, and you only, may.

 You in a garden green

 With me were king and queen,

 Were hunter, soldier, tar,

And all the thousand things that children are.

 Now in the elders’ seat

 We rest with quiet feet,

 And from the window-bay

We watch the children, our successors, play.

 “Time was,” the golden head

 Irrevocably said;

 But time which one can bind,

While flowing fast away, leaves love behind.

To My Mother

You too, my mother, read my rhymes

For love of unforgotten times,

And you may chance to hear once more

The little feet along the floor.

To Auntie

“Chief of our aunts”— not only I,

But all your dozen of nurselings cry —

“What did the other children do?

And what were childhood, wanting you?”

To Minnie

The red room with the giant bed

Where none but elders laid their head;

The little room where you and I

Did for awhile together lie

And, simple suitor, I your hand

In decent marriage did demand;

The great day nursery, best of all,

With pictures pasted on the wall

And leaves upon the blind —

A pleasant room wherein to wake

And hear the leafy garden shake

And rustle in the wind —

And pleasant there to lie in bed

And see the pictures overhead —

The wars about Sebastopol,

The grinning guns along the wall,

The daring escalade,

The plunging ships, the bleating sheep,

The happy children ankle-deep

And laughing as they wade:

All these are vanished clean away,

And the old manse is changed today;

It wears an altered face

And shields a stranger race.

The river, on from mill to mill,

Flows past our childhood’s garden still;

But ah! we children never more

Shall watch it from the water-door!

Below the yew — it still is there —

Our phantom voices haunt the air

As we were still at play,

And I can hear them call and say:

“How far is it to Babylon?”

Ah, far enough, my dear,

Far, far enough from here —

Yet you have farther gone!

“Can I get there by candlelight?”

So goes the old refrain.

I do not know — perchance you might —

But only, children, hear it right,

Ah, never to return again!

The eternal dawn, beyond a doubt,

Shall break on hill and plain,

And put all stars and candles out

Ere we be young again.

To you in distant India, these

I send across the seas,

Nor count it far across.

For which of us forgets

The Indian cabinets,

The bones of antelope, the wings of albatross,

The pied and painted birds and beans,

The junks and bangles, beads and screens,

The gods and sacred bells,

And the loud-humming, twisted shells!

The level of the parlour floor

Was honest, homely, Scottish shore;

But when we climbed upon a chair,

Behold the gorgeous East was there!

Be this a fable; and behold

Me in the parlour as of old,

And Minnie just above me set

In the quaint Indian cabinet!

Smiling and kind, you grace a shelf

Too high for me to reach myself.

Reach down a hand, my dear, and take

These rhymes for old acquaintance’ sake!

To My Name-Child


Some day soon this rhyming volume, if you learn with proper speed,

Little Louis Sanchez, will be given you to read.

Then you shall discover, that your name was printed down

By the English printers, long before, in London town.

In the great and busy city where the East and West are met,

All the little letters did the English printer set;

While you thought of nothing, and were still too young to play,

Foreign people thought of you in places far away.

Ay, and when you slept, a baby, over all the English lands

Other little children took the volume in their hands;

Other children questioned, in their homes across the seas:

Who was little Louis, won’t you tell us, mother, please?


Now that you have spelt your lesson, lay it down and go and play,

Seeking shells and seaweed on the sands of Monterey,

Watching all the mighty whalebones, lying buried by the breeze,

Tiny sandy-pipers, and the huge Pacific seas.

And remember in your playing, as the sea-fog rolls to you,

Long ere you could read it, how I told you what to do;

And that while you thought of no one, nearly half the world away

Some one thought of Louis on the beach of Monterey!

To Any Reader

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.

This web edition published by:

The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005


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