Wednesday, 13 November 2013

'Trusty, dusky, vivid, true'

My Wife
Robert Louis Stevenson

Trusty, dusky, vivid, true,
With eyes of gold and bramble-dew,
Steel-true and blade-straight,
The great artificer
Made my mate.

Honour, anger, valour, fire;
A love that life could never tire,
Death quench or evil stir,
The mighty master
Gave to her.

Teacher, tender, comrade, wife,
A fellow-farer true through life,
Heart-whole and soul-free
The august father
Gave to me.

Ever since I discovered Robert Louis Stevenson's poetry during one lonely Long Vacation a few years ago (a discovery which can be helpfully charted via this blog here and here) I've kept a file of my favourites among his poems, for the purpose of posting them.  This one is the last remaining, which I suppose tells you it's the least favourite of my favourites.  That's not because I don't think it's as lovely as the others but because I find it so hard to believe that any man has ever loved a woman for the qualities described here: 'honour, anger, valour, fire', particularly.  Nice thought, but...

However, Stevenson was an unusual man in lots of ways - perhaps this was one of them.


Phoebus.YC said...

Hello ! As I was doing this afternoon a big clean up of my half-forgotten files hidden deep in my capharnaum-like basement, I fell on a yellowish 'dossier' that had not been consulted since... 1958 at least ! I opended it with precaution and... fear, lest the lonely leaf would disappear in dust... But this abandoned leaf, to my great surprise, survived the perusal. It contained the poem "My Wife" by R. L. Stevenson that my English teacher had us learn by rote in class. Since it had to be "regurgitated" for an exam, we made haste to evacuate it from our memory as soon as the mark was in... I cannot explain how this poor sheet has survived the perils of time and fould its way in a carton file. I must have liked this poem (perhaps dreaming of my future wife...)more than I wanted to admit publicly at 16 and I am very glad now to have found it amongst my forgotten souvenirs. I have copied unto my computer so that it has a chance, perhaps, to survive in the cyber space. It is by searching the excact reference that I fell on your blog. Hence the pleasure to communicate with you, Sir.
Best regards,
Yves Chartier (musicologist and medievalist)
Ret. professor at the University of Ottawa.

B.C. said...

Honour, anger, valour, fire.

I can't speak for Stevenson but these are exactly the qualities that I value most in women--these and the quality of being "steel-true and blade-straight."