Friday, December 22, 2006

Winter-Time: A Poetry Friday Post

No, the weather outside isn't frightful. Yet. Although it is a bit dreary today and the forecast says rain is on the way. It is, however, officially winter, what with the solstice occurring yesterday evening and all.

In honor of the turning of the season, I thought I'd post a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson -- yes, he of Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. But hey, he also wrote The Land of Nod. and other poems as part of a collection called A Child's Garden of Verses. He later issued a second collection of poetry in two volumes -- one in English and one in Scots -- called Underwoods.

The following poem is from A Child's Garden of Verses. The entire volume of poems was dedicated "To Alison Cunningham, from Her Boy" in a poem of the same name. Alison Cunningham was not his mother, but his nurse (these days, we'd use the term "nanny")hired to help care for young Robert from the time he was eighteen months old. Like his parents, Cunningham was a Calvinist, and told him many stories about hell-fire and damnation. She also included stories about witches and ghosts, which doubtless influenced his later writings, particularly Jekyll and Hyde, written long after he'd repudiated many of the tenets of his Calvinist upbringing. But I digress.

Here, in celebration of the Solstice and the turning of the year, is a fine example of Stevenson's poetry, written from a child's perspective (hence the reference to his "nurse" bundling him up).

by Robert Louis Stevenson

Late lies the wintry sun a-bed,
A frosty, fiery sleepy-head;
Blinks but an hour or two; and then,
A blood-red orange, sets again.

Before the stars have left the skies,
At morning in the dark I rise;
And shivering in my nakedness,
By the cold candle, bathe and dress.

Close by the jolly fire I sit
To warm my frozen bones a bit;
Or with a reindeer-sled, explore
The colder countries round the door.

When to go out, my nurse doth wrap
Me in my comforter and cap;
The cold wind burns my face, and blows
Its frosty pepper up my nose.

Black are my steps on silver sod;
Thick blows my frosty breath abroad;
And tree and house, and hill and lake,
Are frosted like a wedding-cake.

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