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Robert Louis Stevenson’s venerated volume of children’s poems has prospered during more than a century in print. Here is a comfortable world of sunny gardens and storybooks, where children play with toy soldiers and imaginary friends. You may remember some of these poems from your own childhood, such as “My Shadow,” “The Swing,” and “The Land of Counterpane”. If time is any judge, this garden of delights will stay a perennial favourite. The 64 poems in A Child’s Garden of Verses are a masterly evocation of childhood from the author of Treasure Island and Kidnapped. They are full of delightful irony, wit and the fantasy worlds of childhood imagination, and introduce for the first time the Land of Nod. But they are also touched with a genuine and gentle pathos at times as they recall a world which seems so far away from us now.
28 pages with a reading time of ~30 minutes (7000 words), and first published in 1885. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, 2010.
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BED IN SUMMER
In winter I get up at night, And dress by yellow candle light. In summer quite the other way, I have to go to bed by day.
I have to go to bed and see The birds still hopping on the tree, Or hear the grown-up people’s feet, Still going past me in the street.
And does it not seem hard to you, When all the sky is clear and blue, And I should like so much to play, To have to go to bed by day?
YOUNG NIGHT THOUGHT
All night long and every night, When my mamma puts out the light I see the people marching by, As plain as day, before my eye.
Armies and emperors and kings, All carrying different kinds of things, And marching in so grand a way, You never saw the like by day.
So fine a show was never seen At the great circus on the green; For every kind beast and man Is marching in that caravan.
At first they move a little slow, But still the faster on they go, And still beside them close I keep Until we reach the Town of Sleep.
Three of us afloat in the meadow by the swing. Three of us aboard in the basket on the lea. Winds are in the air, they are blowing in the spring, And waves are on the meadow like the waves there are at sea.
Where shall we adventure, to-day that we’re afloat, Wary of the weather and steering by a star? Shall it be to Africa, a-steering of the boat, To Providence, or Babylon, or off to Malabar?
Hi! but here’s a squadron a-rowing on the sea– Cattle on the meadow a-charging with a roar! Quick, and we’ll escape them, they’re as mad as they can be, The wicket is the harbor and the garden is the shore.
FAREWELL TO THE FARM
The coach is at the door at last; The eager children, mounting fast And kissing hands, in chorus sing: Good-bye, good-bye, to everything!
To house and garden, field and lawn, The meadow-gates we swung upon, To pump and stable, tree and swing, Good-bye, good-bye, to everything!
And fare you well for evermore, O ladder at the hayloft door, O hayloft where the cobwebs cling, Good-bye, good-bye, to everything!
Crack goes the whip, and off we go; The trees and houses smaller grow; Last, round the woody turn we swing: Good-bye, good-bye, to everything!
THE LAND OF COUNTERPANE
When I was sick and lay a-bed, I had two pillows at my head, And all my toys beside me lay To keep me happy all the day.
And sometimes for an hour or so I watched my leaden soldiers go, With different uniforms and drills, Among the bed-clothes, through the hills.
And sometimes sent my ships in fleets All up and down among the sheets; Or brought my trees and houses out, And planted cities all about.
I was the giant great and still That sits upon the pillow-hill, And sees before him, dale and plain The pleasant Land of Counterpane.
Come up here, O dusty feet! Here is fairy bread to eat
Here in my retiring room, Children, you may dine
On the golden smell of broom And the shade of pine
And when you have eaten well, Fairy stories hear and tell.
ESCAPE AT BEDTIME
The lights from the parlor and kitchen shone out Through the blinds and the windows and bars; And high over head and all moving about, There were thousands of millions of stars. There ne’er were such thousands of leaves on a tree, Nor of people in church or the Park, As the crowds of the stars that looked down upon me, And that glittered and winked in the dark.
The Dog, and the Plough, and the Hunter and all, And the star of the sailor, and Mars, These shone in the sky, and the pail by the wall Would be half full of water and stars. They saw me at last, and they chased me with cries, And they soon had me packed into bed; But the glory kept shining and bright in my eyes, And the stars going round in my head.
A GOOD PLAY
We built a ship upon the stairs All made of the back-bedroom chairs, And filled it full of sofa pillows To go a-sailing on the billows.
We took a saw and several nails, And water in the nursery pails; And Tom said, “Let us also take An apple and a slice of cake;“– Which was enough for Tom and me To go a-sailing on, till tea.
We sailed along for days and days, And had the very best of plays; But Tom fell out and hurt his knee, So there was no one left but me.