Moral Emblems, by
Robert Louis Stevenson
NOT I, AND OTHER POEMS
I. Some like drink
II. Here, perfect to a wish
As seamen on the seas
IV. The pamphlet here presented
MORAL EMBLEMS: A COLLECTION OF CUTS AND VERSES
I. See how the children in the print
your soul upraise to see
III. A PEAK IN DARIEN - Broad-gazing on
IV. See in the print how, moved by whim
Mark, printed on the opposing page
MORAL EMBLEMS: A SECOND COLLECTION OF CUTS AND VERSES
I. With storms a-weather, rocks-a-lee
II. The careful
angler chose his nook
III. The Abbot for a walk went out
The frozen peaks he once explored
V. Industrious pirate!
see him sweep
A MARTIAL ELEGY FOR SOME LEAD SOLDIERS
For certain soldiers lately dead
THE GRAVER AND THE PEN: OR, SCENES FROM NATURE, WITH APPROPRIATE
I. PROEM - Unlike the common run of men
THE PRECARIOUS MILL - Alone above the stream it stands
THE DISPUTATIOUS PINES - The first pine to the second said
THE TRAMPS - Now long enough had day endured
FOOLHARDY GEOGRAPHER - The howling desert miles around
THE ANGLER AND THE CLOWN - The echoing bridge you here may see
I. ROBIN AND BEN: OR, THE PIRATE AND THE APOTHECARY
- Come, lend me an attentive ear
II. THE BUILDER’S
DOOM - In eighteen-twenty Deacon Thin
NOT I, AND OTHER
Some like drink
a pint pot,
Some like to think;
Strong Dutch cheese,
Old Kentucky rye,
Some like these;
Some like Poe,
And others like Scott,
Some like Mrs. Stowe;
Some like to laugh,
Some like to cry,
Some like chaff;
to a wish,
We offer, not a dish,
But just the platter:
book that’s not a book,
A pamphlet in the look
I own in disarray:
As to the flowers of May
To my poetic rage,
The smallness of the page
of the printer.
As seamen on
With song and dance descry
Adown the morning breeze
islet in the sky:
In Araby the dry,
As o’er the sandy
The panting camels cry
To smell the coming rain:
So all things over earth
A common law obey,
Pass, arm in arm, away;
And even so, to-day,
printer and the bard,
In pressless Davos, pray
Was planned and printed by
A printer unindented,
bard whom all decry.
The author and the printer,
With various kinds of skill,
it in Winter
At Davos on the Hill.
They burned the nightly taper;
But now the work is ripe -
the costly paper,
Remark the perfect type!
See how the children
in the print
Bound on the book to see what’s in ‘t!
like these pretty babes, may you
Seize and apply this volume
And while your eye upon the cuts
With harmless ardour
opes and shuts,
Reader, may your immortal mind
To their sage
lessons not be blind.
your soul upraise to see,
In yon fair cut designed by me,
pauper by the highwayside
Vainly soliciting from pride.
how the Beau with easy air
Contemns the anxious rustic’s
And, casting a disdainful eye,
Goes gaily gallivanting
He from the poor averts his head . . .
He will regret
it when he’s dead.
Poem: III -
A PEAK IN DARIEN
on untrodden lands,
See where adventurous Cortez stands;
in the heavens above his head
The Eagle seeks its daily bread.
aptly fact to fact replies:
Heroes and eagles, hills and skies.
who contemn the fatted slave
Look on this emblem, and be brave.
See in the print
how, moved by whim,
Trumpeting Jumbo, great and grim,
his trunk, like a cravat,
To noose that individual’s hat.
sacred Ibis in the distance
Joys to observe his bold resistance.
on the opposing page,
The unfortunate effects of rage.
(who might be you or me)
Hurls another into the sea.
soul, his unreflecting act
His future joys will much contract,
he will spoil his evening toddy
By dwelling on that mangled body.
With storms a-weather,
The dancing skiff puts forth to sea.
dissenter in the blast
Recoils before the sight aghast.
she, although the heavens be black,
Holds on upon the starboard
For why? although to-day she sink,
Still safe she sails
in printer’s ink,
And though to-day the seamen drown,
cut shall hand their memory down.
The careful angler
chose his nook
At morning by the lilied brook,
And all the
noon his rod he plied
By that romantic riverside.
the evening hours decline
Tranquilly he’ll return to dine,
breathing forth a pious wish,
Will cram his belly full of fish.
The Abbot for
a walk went out,
A wealthy cleric, very stout,
And Robin has
that Abbot stuck
As the red hunter spears the buck.
or the javelin
Has, you observe, gone bravely in,
may hear that weapon whack
Bang through the middle of his back.
we may learn that Abbots should
Never go walking in a wood.
The frozen peaks
he once explored,
But now he’s dead and by the board.
better far at home to have stayed
Attended by the parlour maid,
warmed his knees before the fire
Until the hour when folks retire!
if you would be spared to friends,
Do nothing but for business
see him sweep
The lonely bosom of the deep,
And daily the
From Hatteras or Matapan.
Be sure, before that
He will have made a pot of gold,
retire from all his labours
And be respected by his neighbours.
also scan your life’s horizon
For all that you can clap your
ELEGY FOR SOME LEAD SOLDIERS
soldiers lately dead
Our reverent dirge shall here be said.
when their martial leader called,
No dread preparative appalled;
I marked them steadfast in the field.
grimly sided with the foe,
And smote each leaden hero low.
they perished one by one:
The dread Pea-cannon’s work was
O not for them the tears we shed,
Consigned to their
But while unmoved their sleep they take,
mourn for their dear Captain’s sake,
For their dear Captain,
who shall smart
Both in his pocket and his heart,
his heroes shed their gore,
And lacked a shilling to buy more!
THE PEN: OR, SCENES FROM NATURE, WITH APPROPRIATE VERSES
I - PROEM
Unlike the common
run of men,
I wield a double power to please,
And use the
GRAVER and the PEN
With equal aptitude and ease.
I move with that illustrious crew,
The ambidextrous Kings of
And every mortal thing I do
Brings ringing money in the
Hence, in the morning hour, the mead,
The forest and the stream
Me wandering as the muses lead -
Or back returning
in the eve.
Two muses like two maiden aunts,
The engraving and the singing
Follow, through all my favourite haunts,
traces in the dews.
To guide and cheer me, each attends;
Each speeds my rapid task
One to my cuts her ardour lends,
One breathes her magic
in my song.
Poem: II - THE
Alone above the
stream it stands,
Above the iron hill,
The topsy-turvy, tumble-down,
Still as the ringing saws advance
To slice the humming deal,
day the pallid miller hears
The thunder of the wheel.
He hears the river plunge and roar
As roars the angry mob;
feels the solid building quake,
The trusty timbers throb.
All night beside the fire he cowers:
He hears the rafters jar:
why is he not in a proper house
As decent people are!
The floors are all aslant, he sees,
The doors are all a-jam;
from the hook above his head
All crooked swings the ham.
‘Alas,’ he cries and shakes his head,
by every sign,
There soon all be the deuce to pay,
estate of mine.’
Poem: III -
THE DISPUTATIOUS PINES
The first pine
to the second said:
‘My leaves are black, my branches red;
stand upon this moor of mine,
A hoar, unconquerable pine.’
The second sniffed and answered: ‘Pooh!
I am as good a
pine as you.’
‘Discourteous tree,’ the first replied,
tempest in my boughs had cried,
The hunter slumbered in my shade,
hundred years ere you were made.’
The second smiled as he returned:
‘I shall be here when
you are burned.’
So far dissension ruled the pair,
Each turned on each a frowning
When flickering from the bank anigh,
A flight of martens
met their eye.
Sometime their course they watched; and then -
nodded off to sleep again.
Poem: IV - THE
Now long enough
had day endured,
Or King Apollo Palinured,
Seaward he steers
his panting team,
And casts on earth his latest gleam.
But see! the Tramps with jaded eye
Their destined provinces
Long through the hills their way they took,
beside the mountain brook;
’Tis over; now with rising hope
pause upon the downward slope,
And as their aching bones they rest,
anxious captain scans the west.
So paused Alaric on the Alps
And ciphered up the Roman scalps.
Poem: V - THE
The howling desert
The tinkling brook the only sound -
with all his toils and feats,
The traveller dines on potted meats;
potted meats and princely wines,
Not wisely but too well he dines.
The brindled Tiger loud may roar,
High may the hovering Vulture
Alas! regardless of them all,
Soon shall the empurpled
glutton sprawl -
Soon, in the desert’s hushed repose,
trumpet tidings through his nose!
Alack, unwise! that nasal song
be the Ounce’s dinner-gong!
A blemish in the cut appears;
Alas! it cost both blood and tears.
glancing graver swerved aside,
Fast flowed the artist’s vital
And now the apologetic bard
Demands indulgence for his
Poem: VI - THE
ANGLER AND THE CLOWN
The echoing bridge
you here may see,
The pouring lynn, the waving tree,
angler fresh from town -
Above, the contumelious clown.
angler plies his line and rod,
The clodpole stands with many a
With many a nod and many a grin,
He sees him cast his
‘What have you caught?’ the peasant cries.
‘Nothing as yet,’ the Fool replies.
I - ROBIN AND BEN: OR, THE PIRATE AND THE APOTHECARY
Come, lend me
an attentive ear
A startling moral tale to hear,
Rob and Chemist Ben,
And different destinies of men.
Deep in the greenest of the vales
That nestle near the coast
The heaving main but just in view,
Robin and Ben
Together worked and played the fool,
shunned the Sunday school,
And pulled each other’s youthful
Around the cots, among the roses.
Together but unlike they grew;
Robin was rough, and through
Bold, inconsiderate, and manly,
Like some historic
Bruce or Stanley.
Ben had a mean and servile soul,
not, though he often stole.
He sang on Sunday in the choir,
tamely capped the passing Squire.
At length, intolerant of trammels -
Wild as the wild Bithynian
Wild as the wild sea-eagles - Bob
His widowed dam
contrives to rob,
And thus with great originality
Thenceforth his terror-haunted flight
follows through the starry night;
And with the early morning breeze,
him on the azure seas.
The master of a trading dandy
Robin for a go of brandy;
And all the happy hills of home
beyond the fields of foam.
Ben, meanwhile, like a tin reflector,
Attended on the worthy
Opened his eyes and held his breath,
to the point of death;
And was at last, by that good fairy,
to the Apothecary.
So Ben, while Robin chose to roam,
A rising chemist was at home,
his shop with learnèd air,
Watered his drugs and oiled his
And gave advice to the unwary,
Like any sleek apothecary.
Meanwhile upon the deep afar
Robin the brave was waging war,
other tarry desperadoes
About the latitude of Barbadoes.
knew no touch of craven fear;
His voice was thunder in the cheer;
from the main-to’-gallan’ high,
The skulking merchantmen
to spy -
The first to bound upon the deck,
The last to leave
the sinking wreck.
His hand was steel, his word was law,
mates regarded him with awe.
No pirate in the whole profession
a more honourable position.
At length, from years of anxious toil,
Bold Robin seeks his
Wisely arranges his affairs,
And to his native
The Bristol Swallow sets him down
the well-remembered town.
He sighs, he spits, he marks the scene,
he treads the village green;
And, free from pettiness and rancour,
lodgings at the ‘Crown and Anchor.’
Strange, when a man so great and good
Once more in his home-country
Strange that the sordid clowns should show
A dull desire
to have him go.
His clinging breeks, his tarry hat,
The way he swore, the way
A certain quality of manner,
Alarming like the pirate’s
Something that did not seem to suit all -
O call it bluff, not brutal -
Something at least, howe’er
Made Robin generally black-balled.
His soul was wounded; proud and glum,
Alone he sat and swigged
And took a great distaste to men
Till he encountered
Bright was the hour and bright the day
them in each other’s way;
Glad were their mutual salutations,
their respective revelations.
Before the inn in sultry weather
talked of this and that together;
Ben told the tale of his indentures,
Rob narrated his adventures.
Last, as the point of greatest weight,
The pair contrasted their
And Robin, like a boastful sailor,
Despised the other
for a tailor.
‘See,’ he remarked, ‘with envy, see
with such a fist as me!
Bearded and ringed, and big, and brown,
sit and toss the stingo down.
Hear the gold jingle in my bag -
won beneath the Jolly Flag!’
Ben moralised and shook his head:
‘You wanderers earn
and eat your bread.
The foe is found, beats or is beaten,
either how, the wage is eaten.
And after all your pully-hauly
proceeds look uncommon small-ly.
You had done better here to tarry
to the Apothecary.
The silent pirates of the shore
sleep soft, and pocket more
Than any red, robustious ranger
Who picks his farthings hot
You clank your guineas on the board;
with several bankers stored.
You reckon riches on your digits,
dash in chase of Sals and Bridgets,
You drink and risk delirium
Your whole estate a common seaman’s!
your friend and school companion,
Soon to be wed to Miss Trevanion
honourable, fat and flowery,
With Heaven knows how much land in
Look at me - Am I in good case?
Look at my hands,
look at my face;
Look at the cloth of my apparel;
Try me and
test me, lock and barrel;
And own, to give the devil his due,
have made more of life than you.
Yet I nor sought nor risked a
I shudder at an open knife;
The perilous seas I still
And stuck to land whate’er betided.
I had no
gold, no marble quarry,
I was a poor apothecary,
I stand, at thirty-eight,
A man of an assured estate.’
‘Well,’ answered Robin - ‘well, and how?’
The smiling chemist tapped his brow.
‘Rob,’ he replied,
‘this throbbing brain
Still worked and hankered after gain.
day and night, to work my will,
It pounded like a powder mill;
marking how the world went round
A theory of theft it found.
is the key to right and wrong:
Steal little, but steal all day
And this invaluable plan
Marks what is called the
When first I served with Doctor Pill,
was ever in the till.
Now that I am myself a master,
come softer still and faster.
As thus: on Wednesday, a maid
to me in the way of trade.
Her mother, an old farmer’s wife,
a drug to save her life.
‘At once, my dear, at once,’
Patted the child upon the head,
Bade her be still
a loving daughter,
And filled the bottle up with water.’
‘Well, and the mother?’ Robin cried.
‘O she!’ said Ben - ‘I think she died.’
‘Battle and blood, death and disease,
Upon the tainted
Tropic seas -
The attendant sharks that chew the cud -
abhorred scuppers spouting blood -
The untended dead, the Tropic
The thunder of the murderous gun -
The cut-throat crew
- the Captain’s curse -
The tempest blustering worse and
These have I known and these can stand,
But you -
I settle out of hand!’
Out flashed the cutlass, down went Ben
Dead and rotten, there
Poem: II - THE
Feu’d the land and fenced it in,
his broad foundations down
About a furlong out of town.
Early and late the work went on.
The carts were toiling ere
The mason whistled, the hodman sang;
Early and late
the trowels rang;
And Thin himself came day by day
the work in every way.
An artful builder, patent king
the local building ring,
Who was there like him in the quarter
mortifying brick and mortar,
Or pocketing the odd piastre
substituting lath and plaster?
With plan and two-foot rule in hand,
by the foreman took his stand,
With boisterous voice, with eagle
To stamp upon extravagance.
For thrift of bricks and
greed of guilders,
He was the Buonaparte of Builders.
The foreman, a desponding creature,
Demurred to here and there
‘For surely, sir - with your permeession -
here, sir, in the main parteetion. . . . ’
The builder goggled,
gulped, and stared,
The foreman’s services were spared.
would not count among his minions
A man of Wesleyan opinions.
‘Money is money,’ so he said.
crescents, trade is trade.
Pharaohs and emperors in their seasons
I believe, for different reasons -
Charity, glory, piety, pride
To pay the men, to please a bride,
To use their stone, to
spite their neighbours,
Not for a profit on their labours.
They built to edify or bewilder;
I build because I am a builder.
and street and square I build,
Plaster and paint and carve and
Around the city see them stand,
These triumphs of my
With bulging walls, with sinking floors,
shut, impracticable doors,
Fickle and frail in every part,
rotten to their inmost heart.
There shall the simple tenant find
in the falling window-blind,
Death in the pipe, death in the faucet,
in the deadly water-closet!
A day is set for all to die:
emptor! what care I?’
As to Amphion’s tuneful kit
Thebes rose, with towers encircling
As to the Mage’s brandished wand
A spiry palace
clove the sand;
To Thin’s indomitable financing,
phantom crescent kept advancing.
When first the brazen bells of
Called clerk and parson to their perches,
of every sect
Already viewed it with respect;
A second Sunday
had not gone
Before the roof was rattled on:
And when the
fourth was there, behold
The crescent finished, painted, sold!
The stars proceeded in their courses,
Nature with her subversive
Time, too, the iron-toothed and sinewed,
And the edacious
Thrones rose and fell; and still the crescent,
and now senescent,
A plastered skeleton of lath,
to a day of wrath.
In the dead night, the groaning timber
jar upon the ear of slumber,
And, like Dodona’s talking oak,
oracles and judgments spoke.
When to the music fingered well
feet of children lightly fell,
The sire, who dozed by the decanters,
and dreamed of misadventures.
The rotten brick decayed to dust;
iron was consumed by rust;
Each tabid and perverted mansion
in the article of declension.
So forty, fifty, sixty passed;
Until, when seventy came at last,
occupant of number three
Called friends to hold a jubilee.
was the night; the charging rack
Had forced the moon upon her back;
wind piped up a naval ditty;
And the lamps winked through all the
Before that house, where lights were shining,
feeders, grossly dining,
And jolly clamour, hum and rattle,
outvoiced the tempest’s battle.
As still his moistened lip
The envious policeman lingered;
While far the
infernal tempest sped,
And shook the country folks in bed,
tore the trees and tossed the ships,
He lingered and he licked
Lo, from within, a hush! the host
the evening’s toast;
And lo, before the lips were dry,
Deacon rising to reply!
‘Here in this house which once I
Papered and painted, carved and gilt,
And out of which,
to my content,
I netted seventy-five per cent.;
Here at this
board of jolly neighbours,
I reap the credit of my labours.
were the days - I will say more -
These were the grand old days
The builder laboured day and night;
He watched that
every brick was right:
The decent men their utmost did;
And the house rose - a pyramid!
were the days, our provost knows,
When forty streets and crescents
The fruits of my creative noddle,
All more or less upon
Neat and commodious, cheap and dry,
A perfect pleasure
to the eye!
I found this quite a country quarter;
it solid lath and mortar.
In all, I was the single actor -
am this city’s benefactor!
Since then, alas! both thing and
Shoddy across the ocean came -
Shoddy that can the eye
And makes me blush to meet a builder!
Had this good
house, in frame or fixture,
Been tempered by the least admixture
that discreditable shoddy,
Should we to-day compound our toddy,
gaily marry song and laughter
Below its sempiternal rafter?
so!’ the Deacon cried.
Had marked his fatuous expansion.
were full, the house was fated,
The rotten structure crepitated!
A moment, and the silent guests
Sat pallid as their dinner vests.
moment more and, root and branch,
That mansion fell in avalanche,
on story, floor on floor,
Roof, wall and window, joist and door,
weight of damnable disaster,
A cataclysm of lath and plaster.
Siloam did not choose a sinner -
All were not builders at