Pitting my own humour to this old verse … we’ll walk the woods no more

At this time Stevenson was much occupied, as were several young writers his contemporaries, with imitating the artificial forms of early French verse. Some of his attempts have been preserved, like the two contained in this letter. The second is a variation on a theme of Théodore de Banville’s.

[Dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 2, 415].

To Fanny Sitwell [Colvin 1911, 1, pp. 228-229]

[Late August 1875] Château Renard[, Loiret].

[…],

I have been walking these last days from place to place; and it does make it hot for walking with a sack in this weather. I am burned in horrid patches of red; my nose, I fear, is going to take the lead in colour; Simpson is all flushed, as if he were seen by a sunset.

Château-Renard, ruins of the old castle [http://www.hebergement-chateau-renard.com/]

Château-Renard, Château de la Motte [http://media.communes.com/]

A. Charnay (1844-1916), Château-Renard, the castle [http://www.culture.gouv.fr/]

[http://media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/]

 

Château-Renard [http://www.france-voyage.com/]

I send you here two rondeaux; I don’t suppose they will amuse anybody but me; but this measure, short and yet intricate, is just what I desire; and I have had some good times walking along the glaring roads, or down the poplar alley of the great canal, pitting my own humour to this old verse. […]

F. Legrip (1817-1871), River scene with poplars and a boatman [http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/]

D.A. Grenet de Joigny (1821-1885), Landscape with poplars, a town in the Distance [http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/]

Joséphine Bowes, Avenue of poplars, 1866-1869 [http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/]


Far have you come, my lady, from the town,
And far from all your sorrows, if you please,
To smell the good sea-winds and hear the seas,
And in green meadows lay your body down.

To find your pale face grow from pale to brown,
Your sad eyes growing brighter by degrees;
Far have you come, my lady, from the town,
And far from all your sorrows, if you please.

Here in this seaboard land of old renown,
In meadow grass go wading to the knees;
Bathe your whole soul a while in simple ease;
There is no sorrow but the sea can drown;
Far have you come, my lady, from the town.

 

               Nous n’irons plus au bois
We’ll walk the woods no more,
But stay beside the fire,
To weep for old desire
And things that are no more.
The woods are spoiled and hoar,
The ways are full of mire;
We’ll walk the woods no more,
But stay beside the fire.
We loved, in days of yore,
Love, laughter, and the lyre.
Ah God, but death is dire,
And death is at the door –
We’ll walk the woods no more.

Robert Louis Stevenson

Théodore Faullain de Banville (1823-1891), French poet and writer [http://upload.wikimedia.org/]

Théodore de Banville (1823-1891)
“Nous n’irons plus au bois”

Nous n’irons plus au bois, les lauriers sont coupés.
Les Amours des bassins, les Naïades en groupe
Voient reluire au soleil en cristaux découpés
Les flots silencieux qui coulaient de leur coupe.
Les lauriers sont coupés, et le cerf aux abois
Tressaille au son du cor ; nous n’irons plus au bois,
Où des enfants joueurs riait la folle troupe
Parmi les lys d’argent aux pleurs du ciel trempés ;
Voici l’herbe qu’on fauche et les lauriers qu’on coupe.
Nous n’irons plus au bois, les lauriers sont coupés.

_____________________________________________________________

This walk along the Loing is described in ‘An Epilogue to An Inland Voyage’ (1888), even though it was made in 1875 and the ‘Inland Voyage’ boat trip dates from the year after. The essay opens:

“The country where they journeyed, that green, breezy valley of the Loing, is one very attractive to cheerful and solitary people. The weather was superb; all night it thundered and lightened, and the rain fell in sheets; by day, the heavens were cloudless, the sun fervent, the air vigorous and pure. They walked separate: the Cigarette [Simpson] plodding behind with some philosophy, the lean Arethusa [RLS] posting on ahead. Thus each enjoyed his own reflections by the way; each had perhaps time to tire of them before he met his comrade at the designated inn; and the pleasures of society and solitude combined to fill the day. The Arethusa carried in his knapsack the works of Charles of Orleans, and employed some of the hours of travel in the concoction of English roundels.”

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One Response to Pitting my own humour to this old verse … we’ll walk the woods no more

  1. rdury says:

    This walk along the Loing is described in ‘An Epilogue to An Inland Voyage’ (1888), even though it was made in 1875 and the ‘Inland Voyage’ boat trip dates from the year after. The essay opens:

    “The country where they journeyed, that green, breezy valley of the Loing, is one very attractive to cheerful and solitary people. The weather was superb; all night it thundered and lightened, and the
    rain fell in sheets; by day, the heavens were cloudless, the sun fervent, the air vigorous and pure. They walked separate: the Cigarette [Simpson] plodding behind with some philosophy, the lean Arethusa [RLS] posting on ahead. Thus each enjoyed his own reflections by the way; each had perhaps time to tire of them before he met his comrade at the designated inn; and the pleasures of society and solitude combined to fill the day. The Arethusa carried in his knapsack the works of Charles of Orleans, and employed some of the hours of travel in the concoction of English roundels.”

    Like

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