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Stevenson or Housman?: "Home is the sailor from the sea""

Updated on October 9, 2017
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

After I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962, poetry became my passion.

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Tombstone of Robert Louis Stevenson

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A. E. Houseman

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Who originally wrote the lines, "Home is the sailor from the sea, / The hunter from the hill," and "Home is the sailor, home from the sea, / And the hunter home from the hill?" Same poet or not?

Confusion has arisen over the lines, "Home is the sailor, home from the sea /And the hunter home from the hill," and "Home is the sailor from the sea / The hunter from the hill." Some readers have asked how these lines could come from two different sources; others have surmised that Stevenson is quoting Housman. But why could it not be the other way around? Do the lines belong to Robert Louis Stevenson or A. E. Housman? Let us investigate.

Robert Louis Stevenson is the older poet, born in 1850, died in1894. A. E. Housman was born in 1859 and died in 1936.

After Robert Louis Stevenson died in 1894, his short poem, "Requiem," was inscribed on his tombstone (see photo).

A. E. Housman poem, "XXII - R. L. S.," is a tribute to Robert Louis Stevenson, focusing on the final two lines from Stevenson's "Requiem."

Housman's tribute appears in The Collected Poems of A. E. Housman. In a letter to Grant Richards, a friend of Housman, dated January 15, 1929, Housman mentions his tribute poem: "The poem on R.L.S. appeared at his death in the Academy in 1894."

So, problem solved. Housman alluded to Stevenson's lines in a tribute to the older poet, who had died. Note that Housman tweaked the wording a bit, but nevertheless made it possible for his readers to make the connection with Stevenson's earlier poem.

Musical rendition of "Requiem"

© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes

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