Poetry: To an Island Princess by Robert Louis Stevenson
May is Poetry Month, so I went in search of some travel poetry.
I always read one of my childhood favorites, Robert Louis Stevenson’ In the Land of the Counterpane, when I was sick. His picture of a sick child playing on the bedcovers, reflected his own sickly childhood, and for many years he was mainly known as a children’s writer, but people rediscovered and now admire his work.
He wrote a tome entitled Songs of Travel, in some cases with notes about whose music they should be set to. The author of Treasure Island, Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde, and many other books, essays and poems, wandered far from his native Scotland. He traveled restlessly all his life, including to the South Pacific, and below is one of his South Seas poems. You can download the whole, which is filled with late 19th century romanticism, at Project Gutenberg or find it set to music at other places on the web.
XXVIII – TO AN ISLAND PRINCESS
SINCE long ago, a child at home,
I read and longed to rise and roam,
Where’er I went, whate’er I willed,
One promised land my fancy filled.
Hence the long roads my home I made;
Tossed much in ships; have often laid
Below the uncurtained sky my head,
Rain-deluged and wind-buffeted:
And many a thousand hills I crossed
And corners turned – Love’s labour lost,
Till, Lady, to your isle of sun
I came, not hoping; and, like one
Snatched out of blindness, rubbed my eyes,
And hailed my promised land with cries.
Yes, Lady, here I was at last;
Here found I all I had forecast:
The long roll of the sapphire sea
That keeps the land’s virginity;
The stalwart giants of the wood
Laden with toys and flowers and food;
The precious forest pouring out
To compass the whole town about;
The town itself with streets of lawn,
Loved of the moon, blessed by the dawn,
Where the brown children all the day
Keep up a ceaseless noise of play,
Play in the sun, play in the rain,
Nor ever quarrel or complain; –
And late at night, in the woods of fruit,
Hark! do you hear the passing flute?
I threw one look to either hand,
And knew I was in Fairyland.
And yet one point of being so
I lacked. For, Lady (as you know),
Whoever by his might of hand,
Won entrance into Fairyland,
Found always with admiring eyes
A Fairy princess kind and wise.
It was not long I waited; soon
Upon my threshold, in broad noon,
Gracious and helpful, wise and good,
The Fairy Princess Moe stood.
Tantira, Tahiti, Nov. 5, 1888.
Do you have a favorite poem of travel? Please share with us during Poetry Month.