Robert Louis Stevenson. A Child's Garden of Verses


Robert Louis Stevenson

13 November 1850, 8 Howard Place, Edinburgh, Scotland —
3 December 1894, Upolu, Vailima, a village about four kilometers
south of Apia, the capital of Samoa













A Child's Garden of Verses

(a collection of poetry for children 
by Robert Louis Stevenson originally 
published in 1885)

To Alison Cunningham


To Any Reader

As from the house your mother sees
You playing round the garden trees,
So you may see, if you will look
Through the windows of this book,
Another child, far, far away,
And in another garden, play.
But do not think you can at all,
By knocking on the window, call
That child to hear you. He intent
Is all on his play-business bent.
He does not hear; he will not look,
Nor yet be lured out of this book.
For, long ago, the truth to say,
He has grown up and gone away,
And it is but a child of air
That lingers in the garden there.






As — как будто
By knocking on the window — постучав в окошко
He is intent — он погружен (в свою игру)
He is bent on his play-business — он склонился над своей игрой
He cant be lured out of his book — его ничем нельзя привлечь и оторвать от книжки
The truth to say — по правде говоря
He has grown up — он вырос
He has gone away — он уехал
A child of air — воздушный ребенок
He lingers — он задержался в саду.

Answer the questions:

1. What is the window?

2. How can you see through the window of a book?

3. Why can’t you call the child out?

4. Who is this child?

5. With who can you speak through a book?


When Stevenson was a child he was often ill and had to stay in bed
when other children were having a good time. It was often boring.
Memories of this might have been the reason for writing this poem.

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?











Grown-up people — взрослые люди
I should like — я бы хотел
I have to go to bed — я должен ложиться спать

Answer the Questions:

1. When do you have to go to bed by day?

2. Do you like to watch people in the street?

3. What can you see from your window?

4. Stevenson liked to play games.
What kind of games do you think he liked to play?













In Scotland during Stevenson’s time children played the following games on the streets:

‘Marbles’ «разноцветные стеклянные шарики»

Firstly they might draw a circle on the pavement with chalk.
In the circle they would put yellow and red marbles. Each colour belonged
to a player. The winner was the one who first pushed his opponents’ marbles
out of the circle.

‘Tag’ «салки»

It’s another favourite game. People chase each other.

Hopscotch’ «классики»

Children drew squares on the pavement and they would jump from one square
to another. Children liked to act out games. They pretended to be pirates. Perhaps it’s
by observing children being pirates inspired Stevenson to write Treasure Island.


Here are two poems about rain:



The rain is falling all around,
     It falls on field and tree,
It rains on the umbrellas here,
     And on the ships at sea.




















Answer the Questions:

1. Do you like rain?

2. What adjectives can describe rain?


Windy Nights

Whenever the moon and stars are set,
     Whenever the wind is high,
All night long in the dark and wet,
     A man goes riding by.
Late in the night when the fires are out,
Why does he gallop and gallop about?
Whenever the trees are crying aloud,
     And ships are tossed at sea,
By, on the highway, low and loud,
     By at the gallop goes he.
By at the gallop he goes, and then
By he comes back at the gallop again.














The ships are tossed — корабли кидает из стороны в сторону.

Answer the Questions:

1. What happens with the trees? What is the sea like during the rain?

2. How is the rider going?

3. Where is he going, why is he going at night?

4. Make up a story about the rider.


There are a lot of phantom riders in English folklore.
Maybe this rider is a ghost.


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.












Leaves a-floating = Leaves are floating — листья плывут
Shall bring my boats ashore — принесут мои корабли на берег

Answer the Questions:

1. What colour is the river and why?

2. Do you like to make boats and let them go sailing?

3. When do you do that?

4. Where do the rivers go?

5. Why is the boy dreaming about the boats and seas?

6. Would you like to go sailing on a boat?



My Shadow

I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,
And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.
He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;
And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed.
The funniest thing about him is the way he likes to grow—
Not at all like proper children, which is always very slow;
For he sometimes shoots up taller like an india-rubber ball,
And he sometimes goes so little that there's none of him at all.
He hasn't got a notion of how children ought to play,
And can only make a fool of me in every sort of way.
He stays so close behind me, he's a coward you can see;
I'd think shame to stick to nursie as that shadow sticks to me!
One morning, very early, before the sun was up,
I rose and found the shining dew on every buttercup;
But my lazy little shadow, like an arrant sleepy-head,
Had stayed at home behind me and was fast asleep in bed.










Use — польза
is very, very like me — совсем как я
from the heels up to the head — с ног до головы (от пят до головы)
shoots up — взлетает, вдруг вырастает
rubber ball — резиновый мячик
notion — идея
coward — трус
shame — стыдно
to stick to nursie — быть все время возле няни, прятаться за няню
shining dew — сверкающая роса
lazy — ленивый
arrant sleepy-head — отъявленный соня, лентяй
fast asleep — в глубоком сне

Answer the Questions:

1. What size is Stevenson’s shadow?

2. What is the funniest thing about his shadow?

3. How do you think the shadow makes a fool of Stevenson?

4. Why is the shadow so bad?

5. How do you think children ought to play?

Stevenson did not just like to observe people in the streets and birds, but even his shadow.
Like Hans Christian Andersen, he was impressed by how your shadow could take on different forms
and grow bigger, smaller, and at times grotesque. But in Stevenson’s poem his shadow
is lazy, crafty and cowardly. In some cultures a shadow represents a person’s soul.
In Andersen’s story the Shadow is braver, more dangerous and doesn’t just change size,
but assumes a human form, it’s a man’s double.