A Child's Garden of Verses (1885)
Robert Louis Stevenson

Whole Duty of Children

A child should always say what's true
And speak when he is spoken to,
And behave mannerly at table;
At least as far as he is able.

From Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) collection of children’s poems A Child's Garden of Verses published in 1885 which takes readers through more than forty recollections conjured up by Stevenson’s brilliant mind.

Remembering the disappointment of being sent to Bed in Summer while daylight still prevailed, the various simple musings expressed in A Thought, At the Sea-side and Young Night-Thought carries the hearts and minds of his audience into a world not so far from youth. The Whole Duty of Children is a gentle reminder for young ears to be the best you can as ‘far as they are able.’

Roland Leich a composer on the faculty of Dartmouth School of Music set this and several other poems from this collection to music in 1941. Among the composer's other songs are settings of several poems by Emily Dickinson and A.A. Milne, as well as, over a dozen poems based on the Pickpocket Songs by Edna Becker.

Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, Robert Louis Stevenson’s childhood was plagued by illness. Spending his early years in poor health, confined to the nursery most of the time, he credited these periods with helping him to bring an uncommon understanding of the real and imaginary worlds of childhood play to all of his later writing. He began A Child's Garden of Verses while working on Treasure Island revisiting it during a stay in England after 1884, when he also wrote Kidnapped and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Persistently troubled by respiratory disease, he returned to America in 1887 and finally settled on the island of Samoa in 1890 where he passed away from tuberculosis in 1894.



Public domain text taken from The Poets’ Corner:

Roland Leich's Compositions:


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