Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) was worn in Edinburgh, Scotland, and suffered from frail health all through childhood, an affliction that would follow him into adulthood and manifest itself ultimately as tuberculosis. He initially set out to be a lawyer and was admitted to the bar in 1875, though he never practiced. He is best known for his tales Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, though he wrote a number of other stories, excellent essays, and of course poems. Constantly searching for a climate that would ease his suffering, he died quite young at the age of 44 and was buried high on Mt. Vaea in his final home of Samoa, the site of which is immortalized in the poem “Requiem” contained within these pages.
I was first introduced to his timeless A Child’s Garden of Verses by my mother as a child myself, and the simple, extremely perceptive moments beautifully rendered in Stevenson’s effortless cadences and perfect rhymes went a long way, I imagine, to making me believe from an early age that poetry was the best way to explain and discover everything, and subsequently made me want to be a poet myself, or at least surround myself with poetry as much as possible. Reading these poems to my own children is one of my fondest memories of young fatherhood. I can think of no other single volume of verse that is more essential for a child’s puerile ears and curious mind.