Monday, October 15, 2007

Where Go the Boats? by Robert Louis Stevenson

Where Go the Boats?

Dark brown is the river,
Golden is the sand.
It flows along for ever,
With trees on either hand.

Green leaves a-floating,
Castles of the foam,
Boats of mine a-boating--
Where will all come home?

On goes the river
And out past the mill,
Away down the valley,
Away down the hill.

Away down the river,
A hundred miles or more,
Other little children
Shall bring my boats ashore.
--Robert Louis Stevenson

As I write this blog, I am more and more impressed with Robert Louis Stevenson. Not only did he write some of the best adventure stories ever, he's also a remarkably sensitive poet. He must have really understood children in order to get their feelings on so many subjects just right. He writes about things that really matter to kids like swings, shadows, and the unfairness of bedtimes.

Most importantly, his works have a timeless quality on a couple of levels. First, although they were written over a hundred years ago, children of today can still relate to his stories and poems. The specific circumstances of their lives may be different, but the feelings he writes about are universal. Secondly, there's a depth to his works that adults can appreciate on an entirely different level from children.

In this poem, for instance, a child is fascinated by the fact that the river near his house flows along forever--the water goes away, but there's always more water coming--and that further on down the river, there are other children, just like him, playing in the water that has just left him and maybe pulling out the boats that he made--they're sharing something, but they'll never meet. As an adult, I can see larger metaphors in this. I'm sharing not only the river, but the whole world with people I'll never meet, and my actions can have consequences for them. Or perhaps the river is a metaphor for time, and the things I do now will influence later generations. One could write an excellent church talk on the lines, "Other little children Shall bring my boats ashore."

No comments:

Post a Comment