Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sunday Poetry - Robert Louis Stevenson

On Classic FM last week I heard Teddy Tahu Rhodes singing Vaughan Williams' Songs of Travel. I love this song cycle from the poetry of Robert Louis Stevenson, & this poem, Whither Must I Wander, is my favourite. I find all the poems in the cycle quite melancholy but maybe that's Vaughan Williams' arrangement or the knowledge that RLS died young which makes me feel melancholy. I really should read Claire Harman's biography & see if it's a happier story than I imagine. Certainly his book about traveling in France with a donkey has some light hearted moments (I notice that I've been planning to read a biography of RLS for the last six years...). However, listening to Bryn Terfel sing these beautiful songs is always a pleasure.

Home no more home to me, whither must I wander?
Hunger my driver, I go where I must.
Cold blows the winter wind over hill and heather:
Thick drives the rain and my roof is in the dust.
Loved of wise men was the shade of my roof-tree,
The true word of welcome was spoken in the door–
Dear days of old with the faces in the firelight,
Kind folks of old, you come again no more.

Home was home then, my dear, full of kindly faces,
Home was home then, my dear, happy for the child.
Fire and the windows bright glittered on the moorland;
Song, tuneful song, built a palace in the wild.
Now when day dawns on the brow of the moorland,
Lone stands the house, and the chimney-stone is cold.
Lone let it stand, now the friends are all departed,
The kind hearts, the true hearts, that loved the place of old.

Spring shall come, come again, calling up the moorfowl,
Spring shall bring the sun and the rain, bring the bees and flowers;
Red shall the heather bloom over hill and valley,
Soft flow the stream through the even-flowing hours.
Fair the day shine as it shone on my childhood–
Fair shine the day on the house with open door;
Birds come and cry there and twitter in the chimney–
But I go for ever and come again no more.


  1. OH, I haven't heard of this song cycle, but I love the literary connection; I'll have a look for it!

    1. It's very beautiful so I hope you can listen to it. I love English song cycles.