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91 ...... Dre ams 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, 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, 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 The curious music that I hear.1 When Stevenson was a child, bedtime was the preserve of fantasies, picture-­ making, and stories—the curious music of the subconscious. Stevenson claimed that his mind was most active in the hours between being put to bed and falling asleep: “I remember these periods more distinctly and I believe further back than any other part of my childhood.”2 Some of the images summoned in those nighttime vigils stayed with him all his life. Many poems in A Child’s Garden of Verses are about 92 ...... going to bed and waking up, the transitional world between daylight and nighttime. The child in these poems, literally and mentally, floats between two symbolic planes of existence . The poem called “Night and Day” begins, When the golden day is done, Through the closing portal, Child and garden, flower and sun, Vanish all things mortal. As the blinding shadows fall As the rays diminish, Under evening’s cloak they all Roll away and vanish.3 The garden, the flower, the sun, and the child disappear into dark shadows. When night falls, everything retreats inward, creeps inside itself. Some poems hint at a deviant desire for this nightworld. In “Escape at Bedtime,” the child slips outside to gaze up at the night sky and the constellations that glitter and wink at him in the dark. In “My Bed Is a Boat” he is off on a solitary journey into the unknown. My bed is like a little boat; Nurse helps me in when I embark; She girds me in my sailor’s coat And starts me in the dark. At night I go on board and say Good-­ night to all my friends on shore; I shut my eyes and sail away And see and hear no more. All night across the dark we steer: But when the day returns at last, Safe in my room, beside the pier, I find my vessel fast.4 93 ...... In the poem “Young Night Thought,” the child anticipates the pleasure of going to bed because that’s when his imagination starts working. All night long and every night, When my mamma puts out the light, I see the people marching by, As plain as day, before my eye. Armies and emperors and kings, All carrying different kinds of things, And marching in so grand a way, You never saw the like by day. . . . . . . . . . . . At first they move a little slow, But still the faster on they go, And still beside them close I keep Until we reach the town of Sleep.5 There is also in these poems a curious wish to be small or to hide. He envies the toy soldier who is buried in a hole: He has lived, a little thing, In the grassy woods of spring; Done, if he could tell me true, Just as I should like to do.6 In “My Kingdom,” the child escapes to a “very little dell / No higher than my head” where he rules over the “little pool,” “the little hills,” “the little sparrows, “the little minnows.” Alas! and as my home I neared, How very big my nurse appeared, How great and cool the rooms!7 He imagines being at the bottom of a river: Sailing blossoms, silver fishes, Paven pools as clear as air— 94 ...... How a child wishes To live down there!8 Another world could be summoned just by closing his eyes to the everyday and entering a private refuge from boredom. When at home alone I sit And am very tired of it, I have just to shut my eyes To go sailing through the skies— To go sailing far away To the pleasant Land of Play; To the fairy land afar Where the Little People are[.] And in his mind the child really goes there, becomes “a...


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