November 13, 2010

"How do you like to go up in a swing/Up in the air so blue?"

How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall,
Till I can see so wide,
River and trees and cattle and all
Over the countryside--

Till I look down on the garden green,
Down on the roof so brown--
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down!
"The Swing," by Robert Louis Stevenson...

... from "A Child's Garden of Verses." I've known that poem by heart as long as I've known... anything.

Stevenson was born 160 years ago today, something I learned after noticing the Google-doodle, which is completely pirate- and not swing-oriented.

Bonus Stevenson material:


edutcher said...

It's sad to think a couple of generations of American boys have never had the fun of Stevenson's adventure novels. 'Treasure Island' is, of course, the great pirate story (I remember my Dad reading it to me) and later took a run at 'Kidnapped' and 'Rob Roy'.

Nobody buckled a swash like he did.

PS It's from the most memorable characterization of Stevenson's second most memorable character, Robert Newton as Long John Silver, that the get the answer to the question, "What's the longest volume in the pirate encyclopedia?".

Maguro said...

Sorry, but that poem can't compare with Treasure Island. Neither does Jekyll and Hyde. Have to agree with Google on this one.

traditionalguy said...

Up in the air so blue was a thrill for a half a million pilots trained from 1942 through half of 1945 by the Army and the Navy. That won the war. That effort took thousands of airfields built all over the country for the training programs.

ricpic said...

Wow, I just saw a revival of ET at our local art house and of course cried my eyes out at the finale when the kids on their bikes take off and fly across the face of the moon and this RLS poem fits right in.

Rick Lee said...

I re-read Treasure Island last year (on the iPhone you can get tons of free public-domain books) after about 40 years and it's startling to realize that everything we "know" about pirates comes from that book. The peg-leg, the parrot on the shoulder, the songs... everything.

chickelit said...

...from "A Child's Garden of Verses." I've known that poem by heart as long as I've known... anything.

Did your edition look like this by chance? That was my mother's.

I've known that book cover as long as I've known... anything.

Chef Mojo said...

For me, the most beautiful of Stevenson's poems is "Requiem."

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 long'd to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.

From childhood to death, Stevenson wrote some of the most wonderful and solemn words in the English language.

bwebster said...

I saw the opening lines of the poem and immediately heard them being recited in the voice of Bullwinkle the Moose. I have to assume that there was some humorous rendition on an episode of "Rocky and Bullwinkle". Maybe I'll go scour YouTube...

bwebster said...

Here it is:

Ann Althouse said...

"Did your edition look like this by chance?"

No, it was a large format Golden book. There was a second Golden book that was a collection of poems, which I liked even more. It had James Whitcomb Riley's "Little Orphan Annie" and Eugene Field's "The Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat" and "Winken Blinken and Nod" and Lear's "The Owl and the Pussycat"... great stuff!

Ann Althouse said...

Winken, Blinken, and Nod one night
Sailed off in a wooden shoe --
Sailed off on a river of crystal light,
Into a sea of dew.
"Where are you going, and what do you wish?"
The old moon asked the three.
"We have come to fish for the herring fish
That live in the beautiful sea;
Nets of silver and gold have we!"

Said Winken,
And Nod.

The old moon laughed and sang a song,
As they rocked in the wooden shoe,
And the wind that sped them all night long
Ruffled the waves of dew.
The little stars were the herring fish
That lived in the beautiful sea --
"Now cast your nets wherever you wish --
Never afeard are we";
So cried the stars to the fisherman three:

Said Winken,
And Nod.

All night long their nets they threw
To the stars in the twinkling foam --
Then down from the skies came the wooden shoe
Bringing the fisherman home;
'Twas all so pretty a sail it seemed
As if it could not be,
And some folks thought 'twas a dream they'd dreamed
Of sailing that beautiful sea --
But I shall name you the fishermen three:

Said Winken,
And Nod.

Winken and Blinken are two little eyes,
And Nod is a little head,
And the wooden shoes that sailed the skies
Is the wee one's trundle-bed.
So shut your eyes while mother sings
Of wonderful sights that be,
And you shall see the beautiful things
As you rock in the misty sea,
Where the old shoe rocked the fisherman three:

Said Winken,
And Nod.

Ann Althouse said...

Not to be confused with Stevenson's The Land of Nod:

FROM breakfast on through all the day
At home among my friends I stay,
But every night I go abroad
Afar into the land of Nod.

All by myself I have to go, 5
With none to tell me what to do—
All alone beside the streams
And up the mountain-sides of dreams.

The strangest things are there for me,
Both things to eat and things to see, 10
And many frightening sights abroad
Till morning in the land of Nod.

Try as I like to find the way,
I never can get back by day,
Nor can remember plain and clear 15
The curious music that I hear.

rhhardin said...

Till I look down on the garden green,
Down on the roof so brown--
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down!

Little Zooks of whom no one was fond
Was launched towards the roof and beyond
The infant’s trajectory took him over the rectory
And into a lily-choked pond.

The Crack Emcee said...

I'm starting to load up MySpace with a bunch of my songs (old and new, released and unreleased, mastered and not) from a bunch of different genres. I'm trying to add the lyrics to as many of them as I can as well.

Many of them reflect my former Lefty self, so don't be surprised.

I'll be at it most of this weekend, so check in and see what else is there, tomorrow, too.

David said...

Is Althouse preggers?

Trooper York said...

The best adaptation I ever saw was when Jekyll and Hyde was on Broadway staring yes....David Hasselhoff. It was the funniest thing you ever saw. We called it Dr Jekyll and Mr. Lifeguard.

Trooper York said...

The Hoff had the craziest jekyll and hyde transformation I have ever seen.

Well next to the time the blogger lady got a few drinks in her on Atlantic Avenue.

Trooper York said...

I have to stop now. I reached my quota of three insults a day. Wink, Wink, Nudge, Nudge.

Trooper York said...

Here he is in all his glory The Hoff as Dr. Jekyll.

Trooper York said...

Ok as much as I hate to do it, here is the blogger lady at the commeter meetup on Atlantic Avenue.

Trooper York said...

Made you look right? Hee.

Trooper York said...

Oh and before AJ busts my balls, sorry for the spelling.

Earth Girl said...

I too have childhood memories of going up in a swing quoting Stevenson. And it is amazing how much influence another Stevenson verse from childhood had on my adult life, i.e., my enjoyment of a number of things and my basic happiness.

"THE WORLD is so full of a number of things,
I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings."

sunsong said...

up in a swing

MamaM said...

This week I was treated to a reading of Rudyard Kipling's "IF" by our 19 year old son, who thought it was a cool poem. He'd found it himself in the book of "Great Recitations" I'd brought home as a leftover from my mom's estate sale.

I listened amazed.

Geoff Matthews said...

It's amazing to think of how many geniuses came from that corner of the world.

That corner being Scotland. Why aren't they coming from there now?

Titus said...

I had lutefisk and Lefse today with my mommy. Yum

Chip Ahoy said...

I've known that poem by heart as long as I've known... anything.

Orly? Before you knew your colors? Before you knew how to tie your shoes? Before you could fit the little wooden state puzzle pieces into their places? Before you knew not to slam the lid of the toy box on your fingers? Before you learned to draw a space invader on an Etch-a-Sketch? Before you learned not to jump off a chair with your tongue sticking out? Before you learned a toilet isn't a magic disappearing device? Before you learned not to put fish in the bathtub? Before you learned not to slide down a metal slide on a hot day? Before even you learned that swinging a rope over your head wouldn't turn you into a helicopter? Before you learned you couldn't swing so high you could flip around the crossbar? And that jumping at the apogee could hurt on landing. Before you learned that holding a towel by the corners makes a terrible parachute?

Terry said...

Stephenson's Jeckyll and Hyde had much more depth than any of the film versions I've seen. Hyde's persona was that of a lower class thug. His sins were carefully calculated to be everything that would repel Jeckyll; the trampling of an innocent, the murder of a saintly patriarch, dark hints at delight in sexual crime and the pleasures of the London low life.
Hyde was notably smaller that Jeckyll, which seems odd if all you've known of the story is what you've seen in the films.
There is a scene where the 1st person narrator suspects a connection between the pair (he believes that Hyde may be Jeckyll's bastard son), and Jeckyll's terror at the line of questioning is quite evident.
Jeckyll knew he was Hyde, and he knew that he liked being Hyde.

Carol said...

I loved the swings when I was a child, especially the good strong swing sets in the public parks. That was my favorite sport.

They should make swings like those for grownups, with bigger seats.

Terry said...

Jeckyll's non-Hyde persona mirrored in telling ways his Hyde persona. He was a "doctor" of a sort we don't really have a type for these days. Jeckyll was educated in medicine but he had no practice and saw no patients. He did research but was not really a scholar. He was unmarried. He was a selfish man. This is clear in the Stephenson story, not in the film treatments.

Sorry, just rambling through my undergrad days, here . . .

Terry said...

. . . and here I've misspelled "Stevenson" :)

prairie wind said...

I loved the swings when I was a child, especially the good strong swing sets in the public parks.

Carol, were your swing seats wooden? With a wooden seat, two kids could swing together--one standing and one seated. That was the most fun.

Carol said...

prairie, no usually it was that heavy canvas-fiber stuff. I tried fitting in one a few years ago - LOL! god that hurt.

But I really used to work out on those things, flying up as high as I could go. The centrifugal force or whatever it is really gets your blood circulating...then, I would jump off and land perfectly, bending my knees to absorb the shock. I can see me doing that now...NOT.

But swinging itself is pretty safe. Adult Swings for aging product idea!

Joe Weber said...

I agree with edutcher, it is sad that boys aren't experiencing the true wonder of Robert Louis Stevenson. That's why at my new company (FlyingWord) we created an interactive iPad book with the entire text of Treasure Island. We completely restored images from original printings of the book (curtesy of the MN Children's Literature Archives) and then put those images into a unique 3D Pop-up that boys can completely control. We're thrilled that Apple approved it just today in time for Robert Louis Stevenson's 160th birthday. You can see the app here:

Quaestor said...

Rick Lee wrote: I re-read Treasure Island... and it's startling to realize that everything we "know" about pirates comes from that book

Well, perhaps. But what we know comes second hand. RLS was meticulous in his scholarship. One of his chief sources was A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the most notorious Pyrates (1724) by Charles Johnson (likely pseudonym of mariner and journalist Nathaniel Mist) where most of what we think of pirate culture first appears in print. RLS took of a lot of material for Treasure Island from Johnson's accounts, including the name of at least one member of John Silver's crew, Israel Hands. Hands was one of the few persons known by name to have been a member of Blackbeard's crew. Israel hands presuably died along with Blackbeard at Ocracoke Inlet in 1718. As you may remember Stevenson has Israel Hands chase Jim Hawkins up the shrouds and into the crosstrees high above the Hispaniola's deck, pretty spry for a man who must have been at least sixty.

The Disney film of "Treasure Island" is very good, in spite of the miscast Bobby Discoll as Jim Hawkins, and everybody should see it, especially if they have young sons to be encouraged. Robert Newton is generally on target, not least for having a real West Country accent (As he was born and raised in Dorset, the "Arrrghs" came naturally) though the eye-rolling leers always annoyed me.

The best film treatment is unfortunately hard to come by. It's the 1990 HBO version which starred Christian Bale as Hawkins, Oliver Reed as Billy Bones, Julian Glover as Dr. Livsey, Christopher Lee as Blind Pew and Charleton Heston as Long John Silver! What a cast! As I said it's the best ever filmed by a sea mile and must be seen whenever and however one may. Calls for a bit of piracy, methinks, Jim lad.

The best Jekyll and Hyde adaptation out there is also hard to come by. Produced in 1968 for television by Dan Curtis (famed for his gothic soap opera "Dark Shadows") it stars Jack Palance in the dual role. This version owes a lot to the Spencer Tracy film in that Hyde is a gentlemanly monster rather than the apelike gutter thug invented by RLS. Palance's Hyde starts out as a rather brutal bon vivant in white tie and tails. He's attractive in a rough kind of way. He buys drinks for the house and charms the women of easy virtue. Even Jekyll is impressed. Hyde allows him to enjoy London's fleshpots without endangering his position in society. Hyde acquires a mistress and sets her up in a nice flat in the East End. He also acquires a sword cane which he uses with increasing savagery, first to discourage his rival for the attentions of his dance-hall princess, later to murder Dr. Jekyll's colleague and critic Dr. Lanyon. See it if you can!

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chuck said...

The hydrogen dog and the cobalt cat, side by side in the armory sat.
Nobody thought about fusion or fission
Everyone spoke of their peacetime mission,
Till somebody came and opened the door.
There they were, in a neutron fog,
The Codrogen Cat and the Hybalt Dog;
They mushroomed up with a terrible roar-
And Nobody Never was there-Nomore.

From the Space Child's Mother Goose, one of my favorites.

Titus said...

There needs to be more tit posts in this place.

All the political posts are getting tired.

We want tits!

Cheryl said...

I love RLS' Child's Garden of Verse. My mom still has my book I grew up reading, and I know a lot of them by heart, and more first lines.

But then Mrs. Richmond in my 6th grade enrichment class killed him. We had enrichment ('cause we were the smart kids) in a closet, unventilated and filled with bookshelves. We would go there after lunch some days to be enriched. At some point in the winter she decided it would be a good idea to read Treasure Island to us. After lunch. No air. Folding chairs. And this doughy old lady reading in a monotone one of the great adventure novels in the English language.

So, Joe, I bought your app. Time to really see what all the fuss was about.

jj121957 said...

I remember my mother singing that poem to me as she pushed me in the swing in our backyard some 45 years ago. Thanks for stimulating some very fond memories.

Portia's Mom said...

Thank you for reminding me of my favorite childhood poem. Other than Mother Goose, I think The Swing was the first poem I learned by heart--and no one taught it to me. I just remembered it after having it read to me over and over as I demanded.

Stephen A. Meigs said...

An unfinished novel he was writing right before he died, Weir of Hermiston, was in a good way to be his best. It's very much worth reading what he wrote of it. Strangely, the other novel he was writing right before he died was St. Ives, which I recall thinking by far the most boring and worthless of what I've read by him, and I've read all his novels.