The wind is without there

Well, Storm Caroline came and rattled our windows last night… here’s something I wrote a little while ago…

I suppose many people would think of Treasure Island when they hear the name of Robert Louis Stevenson, or maybe The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, but although I love his stories, I also really like his poetry – which may seem old-fashioned, or even corny, but like my other favourite poet, John Masefield, Stevenson conjures such wonderful pictures in his words, little images in every line.

It’s a horrible windy evening after a horrible windy day, and Stevenson’s poem The Wind Is Without There, seems the right thing to share.

Stevenson was born in 1850, in Edinburgh, and from birth he was a sickly child and spent much of his early years in bed, or at least in his nursery. That must be very hard for children these days to understand; with all the treatments and modern medicines, it is fortunate that very few children are now bed-bound. With better weather in summer time he was able to have more freedom, and enjoy staying in the country with his cousins.

His early childhood might have been very different from today’s children, but as a University student, he dressed outrageously, smoked hash, and visited brothels… good grief, no wonder his father, a light house engineer despaired! When Stevenson married a divorced woman, eleven years older than himself, in America, his family must have been even more outraged.

After what might be described as a colourful life, dogged by poor health, he died in Samoa at the age of only forty-four.

The wind is without there and howls in the trees,
And the rain-flurries drum on the glass:
Alone by the fireside with elbows on knees
I can number the hours as they pass.
Yet now, when to cheer me the crickets begin,
And my pipe is just happily lit,
Believe me, my friend, tho’ the evening draws in,
That not all uncontested I sit.

Alone, did I say? O no, nowise alone
With the Past sitting warm on my knee,
To gossip of days that are over and gone,
But still charming to her and to me.
With much to be glad of and much to deplore,
Yet, as these days with those we compare,
Believe me, my friend, tho’ the sorrows seem more
They are somehow more easy to bear.

And thou, faded Future, uncertain and frail,
As I cherish thy light in each draught,
His lamp is not more to the miner – their sail
Is not more to the crew on the raft.
For Hope can make feeble ones earnest and brave,
And, as forth thro’ the years I look on,
Believe me, my friend, between this and the grave,
I see wonderful things to be done.

To do or to try; and, believe me, my friend,
If the call should come early for me,
I can leave these foundations uprooted, and tend
For some new city over the sea.
To do or to try; and if failure be mine,
And if Fortune go cross to my plan,
Believe me, my friend, tho’ I mourn the design
I shall never lament for the man.


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