Robert Louis Stevenson


Give us courage and gaiety and the quiet mind.

The local chiefs of Samoa, grieving for their friend who had died the day before, worked through the night to cut a trail to the top of Mt. Vaea where Robert Louis Stevenson had asked to be buried. The tombstone marking this place has one of his own poems engraved on it:

Here he lies where he longed to be; Home is the sailor, home from the sea, And the hunter, home from the hill.

When Stevenson, a Scottish writer who had gone to the South Seas in 1888 for his health (he had been sickly even as a child), decided to live in Apia, Samoa, he built a large house and called it Vailima (Five Rivers). Stevenson learned the ways and the language of the Samoans, and they built a road to Vailima that expressed their feeling for him—“The Road of the Loving Heart.” The Samoans often traveled on it to visit with their dear friend, to listen to him read, or to join him in family prayers.

Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses and his exciting adventure stories such as Treasure Island have delighted both children and adults ever since they were written. The Samoans called him Tusitala (Teller of Tales) and your calendar this month carries some of his thoughts.

One person I have to make good:
myself. But my duty to my neighbor is
much more nearly expressed by saying
that, “I have to make him happy if
I may.”
How do you like to go up in a swing
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do.
The world is so full of a number of things,
I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.
A birdie with a yellow bill
Hopped upon the window sill,
Cocked his shining eye and said:
“Ain’t you ’shamed, you sleepy-head!”
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.
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.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Judith Clark