“Requiem ” by R.L.Stevenson


Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie,
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be,
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.

What a beautiful death poem , by a tuberculular poet embracing death with a will. Will is the testament that expresses the dying man’s wish which is that the following verse be engraved as his epitaph:

Here he lies where he longed to be
Home is the sailor, home from sea
and the hunter home from the hill

Listen to the music of the lines:

The recurrence of d’s haunt you like death in the first stanza, sounding its inevitability :

Under the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie
GlaD DiD I live and glaDly Die
and I laiD me Down with a will

“Under the wide and starry sky” is how the occupant of a narrow grave may view the vast expanse of the sky -at once wide(not infinite) and starry.

Dig the grave and let me lie

Grave is the resting place, also a serious thing. Grave is the noun here, while grave in the next stanza is a verb equivalent to engrave, meaning engraving the letters of the verse on the grave stone. Dig the grave here has almost the modern meaning of “dig” meaning what one likes, loves or enjoys ( as in I dig this song). Especially after the poet says “gladly die” and wants to lie where he always wanted to be.

“Here he lies where he longed to be”

Connect it to the next lines where the sailor is home from sea and the hunter from the hill. where he wants to **be**? In the sea and in the hills one could **be** but in the grave?But then it is only “be” that goes musical with “me”. All one’s achievements in life , either on the sea or in the mountains go to nought and finally one has to return to this home after all.

Glad did I live and gladly die

The poet lived a glad life and has no complaints. Does it mean that he had indeed a glad life? of course not.He is just glad that he lived(glad,did I live).Or may be he lived indeed a glad life and now he is dying and he will lie gladly in his new home under the wide and starry sky.

Be

Interesting usage at different places in the poem. Be means to live, to exist, the opposite of death which is nonexistence. Can one long to be in grave ?

This be the verse you grave for me : Here “be” suggests an irrovacable option, a testament that has to be implemented.

the hunter home from the hill
the sailor home from sea

The alliterations with “h” and “s” are beautiful. Note the hunter is home from the hill but the sailor is home from sea.The hunter goes to a hill (not for a prolonged stay there) but the sailor comes back home after long absences.

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