AD's English Literature : Critical Analysis of Robert Louis Stevenson's Poem "The Vagabond"

Critical Analysis of Robert Louis Stevenson's Poem "The Vagabond"


(Note: Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894), Scottish novelist, essayist, and poet, contributed several classic works to children's literature. His popularity is based primarily on the exciting subject matter of his adventure novels and fantasy stories. In fact, Stevenson wrote skillfully in a variety of genres. A Child's Garden of Verses (1885), containing some of Stevenson's best-known poems, is regarded by many as one of the finest collections of poetry for children. His other verse collections include Underwoods (1887) and Ballads (1890).  Read More Poetry)

Robert Louis Stevenson's  poem The Vagabond ( Collected from Songs of Travel) celebrates the glorious freedom and independence of a tramp's life. All the four stanzas of  The Vagabond repeatedly emphasize the unrestrained joys of an independent life in the outdoors free from all its hassles. Read More Victorian Period  
Stevenson starts the poem by asking to be given the life that he loves. Then he describes the life on the road, sleeping outside and swimming in the river. Stevenson, as a poet, appeals and desires to have the kind of lifestyle that he loves, to let the lave: to wash; bathe, to flow along or against as if washing. Read More Victorian Period He desires only the jolly heaven above and the dry bread where he can dip it in the waters of the river to eat whenever hungry. For there is a life for a man like him and there is the life forever:

“Give to me the life I love,
Let the lave go by me,
Give the jolly heaven above
And the byway nigh me.
Bed in the bush with stars to see,
Bread I dip in the river -
There's the life for a man like me,
There's the life for ever.”


All that the vagabond is interested in is a life of unlimited travel. He wants to completely  avoid all human associations - "nor a friend to know me."All that he wants to do is travel      and travel from one place to another without any restraint whatsoever, not concerned about the weather or material wealth or possessions or anything else around him.  Read More Victorian Period Let the blow of death fall on him soon or late and whatever will be over him will be. A little more that he needs is the face of the earth around and the road before him. He does not seek wealth, hope nor, love nor any friend to know him, but all he seeks is the heaven above and the road below him:

"Give the face of earth around,
And the road before me.
Wealth I ask not, hope nor love,
Nor a friend to know me;
All I ask, the heaven above
And the road below me."


In the next stanza he says he knows he will die sooner or later but he asks for a life on the road. Read More Victorian Period Most importantly, he wishes for a completely carefree life and is not bothered or frightened about death at all. He says he doesn't need wealth or friends:
Let the blow fall soon or late,
Let what will be o'er me;
Give the face of earth around,
And the road before me.
Wealth I ask not, hope nor love,
Nor a friend to know me;
All I ask, the heaven above
And the road below me.
In the next stanza he speaks of harsh conditions in autumn and winter but says that he will not deter him in his yearning to be on the road. He would like to spend his entire life in the outdoors even in the cold autumn and winter months with the sky as his roof. Or let the autumn: here signifying the beginning of old age: fall on him, where afield: in or to the field, away abroad, off the track, astray: he lingers, where the cold autumn wind silences the bird on the tree, while he bites the cold blue finger. The frosty field is as white as meal and the fire-side haven is quite warm. Read More Victorian Period  But for him, not to autumn will he yield and not to winter even. He is prepared for death anytime it comes, and the destiny of his fate.:
Or let autumn fall on me
Where afield I linger,
Silencing the bird on tree,
Biting the blue finger.
White as meal the frosty field -
Warm the fireside haven -
Not to autumn will I yield,
Not to winter even!
 


In the final stanza, he reiterates what he said in the second stanza that he knows he will die sooner or later but he only wants to live his life as he wants on the road, with heaven above and the road below. Read More Victorian Period  The world is big enough for his home and the road before him he will tread. He does not desire the materialism of this world nor a friend to share such worldly fortune. All he wishes for is a place in heaven and the road below him that he must tread in order to reach there:
Let the blow fall soon or late,
Let what will be o'er me;
Give the face of earth around,
And the road before me.
Wealth I ask not, hope nor love,
Nor a friend to know me;
All I ask, the heaven above
And the road below me.
In conclusion, it is fair to say that the vagabond players of nature world is one of the oldest continuously operated little beauties in the humanity. Major performing artists centers around a wayward life with close proximity to nature and Robert Louis Stevenson fosters the same idea herein his poem, The Vagabond.

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