Monday, April 21, 2014

Poetry Analysis: Requiem by Robert Louis Stevenson

by M. J. Joachim
Updated 11/13/15

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 the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.


Perception is reality in this seemingly harsh remembrance for the man who died. There is no fondness, no heart-felt mention of good character, loving family man or loyal friend. In death, this man is remembered as one who was absent, not only because of the work and duties, which rightfully kept him away, but also in spirit. The very first line of his epitaph so declares, “Her he lies where he longed to be.”

Human connection is lost in the translation, with a tombstone engraving that leaves one cold. Clearly the man himself felt deserving of more - simple recognition perhaps that he was glad in life, with a possible inference that he was also peaceful in death.

Clearly he died with a will. My first inclination is to believe “will” refers to an inheritance for those he left behind. However, it cannot be dismissed that “will” is also desire. Was the man happy to die?

My personal analysis approves both meanings of “will” in this poem, determining that he was ready to go and put his affairs in order accordingly. This makes his epitaph all the more chilling, because those he left behind apparently didn’t know how much he meant to them.

Thank you for visiting and commenting on Writing Tips today.

M. J.

©2014 All Rights Reserved  Photo credit:  CCO Public Domain