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Poetry Review - Bright is the Ring of Words by Robert Louis Stevenson

Updated on January 24, 2014
Robert Louis Stevenson Oil on Canvas by Count Girolamo Nerli (Italian, 1863 - 1926)
Robert Louis Stevenson Oil on Canvas by Count Girolamo Nerli (Italian, 1863 - 1926) | Source

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850 - 1894), best known for being the author of such classics as Kidnapped and Treasure Island, was also an accomplished travel writer and poet.

Many of his early poems were focused on his childhood illnesses which were of continual concern. In fact, in 1885 he dedicated his first book of poems, A Child's Garden of Verses , to his childhood nurse, Alison Cunningham. He then went on to publish Underwoods in 1887 and Ballads in 1890, both very different collections meant to help round out Stevenson's literary career.

The last book of poetry attributed to Stevenson was published in 1895 after the author's death, entitled Songs of Travel and Other Verses. This was a miscellaneous collection spanning from love poems to travel to contemplation of time and mortality. What is unusual about this collection is that British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams chose 9 of them and rewrote them into an orchestral collection named Songs of Travel . The song list included:

  1. The Vagabond
  2. Let Beauty Awake
  3. The Roadside Fire
  4. Youth and Love
  5. In Dreams
  6. The Infinite Shining Heavens
  7. Whither Must I Wander
  8. Bright is the Ring of Words
  9. I Have Trod the Upward and the Downward Slope (only to be performed in public after the eight other songs)

As an example of the talent of Robert Louis Stevenson, you'll find the poem Bright is the ring of words below and also a video example of a performance of the song version.

Bright is the ring of words

When the right man rings them,

Fair the fall of songs

When the singer sings them.

Still they are carolled and said -

On wings they are carried -

After the singer is dead

And the maker buried.


Low as the singer lies

In the field of heather,

Songs of his fashion bring

The swains together.

And when the west is red

With the sunset embers,

The lover lingers and sings

And the maid remembers.

Thank you for reading,

The Hatter

Bright is the Ring of Words Musical Performance

© 2011 thehatter


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