Robert Louis Stevenson was a Scottish writer, poet and immensely popular in his time. To this day, his books remain bestsellers, making him the 26th most translated author in the world according to UNESCO. He was a real celebrity during his lifetime and was (and is) admired by too many authors to name. He also was a musician, playing the piano and flageolet and wrote more than 120 musical compositions and arrangements. He also put some of his own poems to music. His most famous works are probably Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and A Child’s Garden of Verses.
The poem below was first published in 1885 in Stevenson’s poetry book A Child’s Garden of Verses. It’s about a young child that likes to escape in stories and the books he (presumably) has read. At night, he gets into bed and while he waits to be tucked in, his mind races in and out of stories and he lives the most magical adventures. This is definitely what reading was like for me as a child. Before falling asleep, I would spend hours reading mostly fantasy books. It’s one of the reasons I never minded going to bed because it was like stepping into a different adventure every night.
The Land of Story-books
(Robert Louis Stevenson, 1885)
At evening when the lamp is lit,
Around the fire my parents sit;
They sit at home and talk and sing,
And do not play at anything.
Now, with my little gun, I crawl
All in the dark along the wall,
And follow the forest track
Away behind the sofa back.
There in the night, where none can spy,
All in my hunter’s camp I lie,
And play at books that I have read
Till it is time to go to bed.
These are the hills, these are the woods,
These are my starry solitudes;
And there the river by whose brink
The roaring lions come to drink.
I see the others far away
As if in firelit camp they lay,
And I, like to an Indian scout,
Around their party prowled about.
So, when my nurse comes in for me,
Home I return across the sea,
And go to bed with backward looks
At my dear land of Story-books.