Robert Louis Stevenson
"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?"
Long ago, I was wounded. I lived
to revenge myself
against my father, not
for what he was--
for what I was: from the beginning of time,
in childhood, I thought
that pain meant
I was not loved.
It meant I loved.
Sweet is the swamp with its secrets,
Until we meet a snake;
'Tis then we sigh for houses,
And our departure take
At that enthralling gallop
That only childhood knows.
A snake is summer's treason,
And guile is where it goes.
Softened by Time's consummate plush,
How sleek the woe appears
That threatened childhood's citadel
And undermined the years.
Bisected now, by bleaker griefs,
We envy the despair
That devastated childhood's realm,
So easy to repair.
Who is it seeks my Pillow Nights --
With plain inspecting face --
"Did you" or "Did you not," to ask --
'Tis "Conscience" -- Childhood's Nurse --
With Martial Hand she strokes the Hair
Upon my wincing Head --
"All" Rogues "shall have their part in" what --
The Phosphorous of God --
When I die choose a star
and name it after me
that you may know
I have not abandoned
or forgotten you.
You were such a star to me,
following you through birth
and childhood, my hand
in your hand.
When I die
choose a star and name it
after me so that I may shine
down on you, until you join
me in darkness and silence
We learned the Whole of Love --
The Alphabet -- the Words --
A Chapter -- then the mighty Book --
Then -- Revelation closed --
But in Each Other's eyes
An Ignorance beheld --
Diviner than the Childhood's --
And each to each, a Child --
Attempted to expound
What Neither -- understood --
Alas, that Wisdom is so large --
And Truth -- so manifold!
On the other side of a mirror there's an inverse world,
where the insane go sane; where bones climb out of the
earth and recede to the first slime of love.
And in the evening the sun is just rising.
Lovers cry because they are a day younger, and soon
childhood robs them of their pleasure.
In such a world there is much sadness which, of course,
Since, Lord, to thee
A narrow way and little gate
Is all the passage, on my infancy
Thou didst lay hold, and antedate
My faith in me.
O let me still
Write thee great God, and me a child:
Let me be soft and supple to thy will,
Small to my self, to others mild,
Although by stealth
My flesh get on, yet let her sister
My soul bid nothing, but preserve her wealth:
The growth of flesh is but a blister;
Childhood is health.
The Things that never can come back, are several --
Childhood -- some forms of Hope -- the Dead --
Though Joys -- like Men -- may sometimes make a Journey --
And still abide --
We do not mourn for Traveler, or Sailor,
Their Routes are fair --
But think enlarged of all that they will tell us
Returning here --
"Here!" There are typic "Heres" --
Foretold Locations --
The Spirit does not stand --
Himself -- at whatsoever Fathom
His Native Land --
A Wife -- at daybreak I shall be --
Sunrise -- Hast thou a Flag for me?
At Midnight, I am but a Maid,
How short it takes to make a Bride --
Then -- Midnight, I have passed from thee
Unto the East, and Victory --
Midnight -- Good Night! I hear them call,
The Angels bustle in the Hall --
Softly my Future climbs the Stair,
I fumble at my Childhood's prayer
So soon to be a Child no more --
Eternity, I'm coming -- Sire,
Savior -- I've seen the face -- before!
I watched the glory of her childhood change,
Half-sorrowful to find the child I knew,
(Loved long ago in lily-time),
Become a maid, mysterious and strange,
With fair, pure eyes - dear eyes, but not the eyes I knew
Of old, in the olden time!
Till on my doubting soul the ancient good
Of her dear childhood in the new disguise
Dawned, and I hastened to adore
The glory of her waking maidenhead,
And found the old tenderness within her deepening eyes,
But kinder than before.
The horns in the harbor booming, vaguely,
Fog, forgotten, yesterday, conclusion,
Nostalgic, noising dim sorrow, calling
To sleep is it? I think so, and childhood,
Not the door opened and the stair descended,
The voice answered, the choice announced, the
Trigger touched in the sharp declaration!
And when it comes, escape is small; the door
Creaks; the worms of fear spread veins; the furtive
Fugitive, looking backward, sees his
Ghost in the mirror, his shameful eyes, his mouth diseased.
I fear to love thee, Sweet, because
Love's the ambassador of loss;
White flake of childhood, clinging so
To my soiled raiment, thy shy snow
At tenderest touch will shrink and go.
Love me not, delightful child.
My heart, by many snares beguiled,
Has grown timorous and wild.
It would fear thee not at all,
Wert thou not so harmless-small.
Because thy arrows, not yet dire,
Are still unbarbed with destined fire,
I fear thee more than hadst thou stood
Full-panoplied in womanhood.