James Joyce: Sad is his voice that calls me
F.W.H. Myers: The mountain-climber's grave

Robert Louis Stevenson: "Here he lies where he longed to be"


Under the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you grave for me;
"Here he lies where he longed to be,
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill."

      --This is the epitaph Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) wrote for himself. It is carved on his gravestone at Vailima in Samoa.


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Born in peace ,lived in peace .Wished to die an'die at wish.

one must love & wish the inevitable to live in peace

"Here he lies where he longed to be"
I found this in a book the day my beloved dog died and it will always forever remind me of him, RIP Bobby forever in my heart.

Well it is and it isn't. His epitaph on his grave stone marker was unfortunately without grammatical marks. And a typo.

This line:

Home is the sailor, home from sea

is mistakenly produced as

Home is the sailer, home from the sea

thus throwing off the pentameter.

I think we can forgive the Samoan craftsmen who carved the stone with the epitaph. Typos & grammatical errors notwithstanding, it's still an impressive monument. I visited the tomb about 20 years ago.I climbed the path, hewn out of the undergrowth by the local tribal chiefs for their beloved Tusitala. It's a tribute to the admiration in which they held him. The view is impressive. Vailima below, Apia beyond.A truly quiet place. I hope it still is.

That's amazing that you actually went there. I feel sure it is still a quiet place. I'd love to see it too.

@Tony how is it pentameter?

No pentameter here - entirely tetrameter

"home from sea" doesn't scan, and doesn't match the final line. You might as well just write

Home is sailor, home from sea
And hunter home from hill.

and thus destroy the walking and wave-rolling rhythm of the original.

I am okay with “home from sea,” because when a sailor heads out on a ship (particularly a member of a navy), they are said to “go to sea.” It is an expression of the vastness thereof, or of an activity or career, rather than a particular place. To say the sailor “goes to the sea,” gives more of a sense of going to the edge, like someone visiting the seashore. Since Stevenson spent a great deal of time traveling and wandering aboard ship, he can definitely be thought of as having “gone to sea.”

Why not say “home from hill”? I think for the same reason one would not say “go to hill.” A hill or a forest is a much more finite thing than the sea, which is interconnected around the world. This finiteness or specificity is expressed by saying “the hill.” He could have said, “and the hunter home from the hunt,” but that would be repetitive and would clash to the ear.

I like both versions, myself. They both give the sense of longing for home. Since “to sea” was Stevenson’s apparent personal intention, I think it has to be considered the winner.

My family chose the common “walking and wave rolling rhythm” version (thanks to JN for that gift) of this poem the kids learn in school for our patriarch’s epitaph earlier this summer.
We also chose to include a brutally shortened snippet on his grave marker, courtesy of the Veteran Administration and their limit of twenty some odd characters over the deceased’s name and lifespan dates. He was born on the windswept prairie in Saskatchewan, as far away from the sea as you can be in any direction, but he loved being outdoors in the wind under the stars, so it seems perfect to us.
This poem is simple magic, made more perfectly human by all the little imperfections.

loved and walked that trek many days while living there so many decades ago...now the beloved other has also departed but memories always cherished.

Stevenson’s written version used syllabic rhythm - eight syllables for each of the last two lines. The gravestone version had nine syllables in the penultimate line, breaking the rhythm. Nevertheless either version provides a fitting epitaph, one which shows a cheerful acceptance of how his life had evolved.

I first learned this as;
“Home is the fisherman,
home from the sea,
and the hunter home from the hill.”

If all you do evaluate the rhythm is count syllables then “fisherman” is at variance with “sailor.”

But in fact, fisherman flows beautifully.
There is much more to verse than counting syllables.

Debating the difference between "home from sea" and "home from the sea" is like debating whether a certain note in The Moonlight Sonata should be a quarter note or an eighth note without consulting the composer. The simple fact is that published versions closest to RLS omit the definite article while the grave marker does not. See, for example, the discussion on the dating of the poem at https://victorianweb.org/authors/stevenson/requiem.html and the image of the actual inscription at https://www.agefotostock.com/age/en/details-photo/the-grave-of-robert-louis-stevenson-1850-1894-on-mount-vaea-in-western-samoa-bearing-a-self-penned-engraved-epitaph/MEV-10547459.

For me, the magic is as etched on his gravestone high up on that hill I climbed on 1 January 2000; the use of the definite article, twice. Logical, grammatically correct and decidedly appropriate.
I was on a round the world trip upon retirement, aged 60, and had meticulously planned to be amongst the first in the world to see the dawn of the new millennium. I shall never forget the moment my eyes caught sight of the elevated tombstone. Something just a little eerie, perhaps, in that high, humid glade, maybe a little disbelief that I was actually there, but then - and lastingly - a degree of awe, admiration and quiet astonishment that I was in the presence of someone from Blighty, right here, so far from home. In the presence of a hero from my childhood years.
As far as the semantics of the debate are concerned, and iambic pentameter or tetrameter aside, my take is quite straightforward; If I was in conversation with another I would say, "I'm home from sea". However, in reported speech, I would unhesitatingly say, "I am home from the sea".
We must all draw our own conclusions, but be reverent about what is actually etched on that gravestone, so meticulously, almost so far from anywhere. RIP RLS.
Vernon Seneviratne, 21 January 2022.

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