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"

Starry_sky

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.

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

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.

The comments to this entry are closed.