I opened Google the other day and was happy to see a tribute to RLS’s 160th Birthday. My grandmother was from Edinburgh as was Mr. Stevenson. I love his works, particularly his poetry, which was regularly read to me as a child.I was reminded of my favorites from A Child’s Garden of Verses and before I knew it, was swept back in time reliving days of building forts on the stairs and sailing boats constructed of newsprint in the pond. I had nearly forgotten about his wonderfully clever poems that were so eloquently recited by Grandma Young. (Her authentic accent was lost on me as a child, but now the rolling R’s and crisp diction rings clear in my heart and mind.)
I bet you can guess what my favorite was…?
I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,
And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.
He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;
And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed.
The funniest thing about him is the way he likes to grow–
Not at all like proper children, which is always very slow;
For he sometimes shoots up taller like an india-rubber ball,
And he sometimes goes so little that there’s none of him at all.
He hasn’t got a notion of how children ought to play,
And can only make a fool of me in every sort of way.
He stays so close behind me, he’s a coward you can see;
I’d think shame to stick to nursie as that shadow sticks to me!
One morning, very early, before the sun was up,
I rose and found the shining dew on every buttercup;
But my lazy little shadow, like an arrant sleepy-head,
Had stayed at home behind me and was fast asleep in bed.
I read some of his poems to my grand-daughter Emma. She’s six years old and I thought she’d be excited to hear them. Wrong! She was bored by the time I hit the second stanza. I guess I just don’t have the same flair for recitation as Grandma Young did. That coupled with the fact that everything has to come with video and interactivity nowadays to attract and keep the attention of the average 6-year-old. What a shame. With luck some clever programmer will bring this literary genius into the hearts and minds of today’s youth.
What’s your favorite poem from childhood?