Speechwriting: Corporate, Weddings, Retirement

1/29/08

Robert Louis Stevenson and The Beginning of Words

Few writers impact a writer like those of youth. From the ones we first hear on our mother's breath, we learn diction, phrasing variance, rhyme, rhythm, story and style. Plots may be less complicated, but the internalization of language is wrought.

Robert Louis Stevenson's book of poetry, "A Child's Garden of Verses," is that. More famous for "Treasure Island," Stevenson captured for me the daydreams of a young boy. He was long gone (1850-1894), and I only entered the world where poetry was written in 1966, but when is a boy not a boy? The 72 years between us were not so much.

70 of his 102 words below are unique. Some British words, images which are no longer modern, and yet, who has not laid sick in bed, with toys all around? 'Counterpane' rarely comes into use for me, but I know, somewhere, is its land. I have been there on excursions many times.

The Land of Counterpane
Robert Louis Stevenson

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.

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