Foreign Children (Robert Louis Stevenson)

Little Indian, Sioux, or Crow,
Little frosty Eskimo,
Little Turk or Japanee,
Oh! don’t you wish that you were me?

You have seen the scarlet trees
And the lions over seas;
You have eaten ostrich eggs,
And turned the turtle off their legs.

Such a life is very fine,
But it’s not so nice as mine:
You must often as you trod,
Have wearied NOT to be abroad.

You have curious things to eat,
I am fed on proper meat;
You must dwell upon the foam,
But I am safe and live at home.
Little Indian, Sioux or Crow,
Little frosty Eskimo,
Little Turk or Japanee,
Oh! don’t you wish that you were me?

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2 Responses to Foreign Children (Robert Louis Stevenson)

  1. Liam says:

    I must say Stephen, if you’d published the poem without the name of the author I’d have thought it was Kipling.

    I’ve read a couple of Stevenson’s books (a fair while ago) and had this vague idea he was a radical of some sort. Reading the poem prompted me to look him up again and he was certainly an interesting character, and a self-professed conservative.

    One thing strikes me about the poem, and another thing regarding Stevenson’s biography. The first is the strong sense of both personal and societal/cultural self-confidence exhibited by Stevenson and so many other writers of the period of, say, 1850-1950. Kipling again, for example, and one of my favourites, John Buchan.

    The second, related point is that unlike many modern liberals, whose effete idea of multiculturalism is to impose its worst effects on others and savour it in a purely culinary fashion themselves, men like Stevenson often had a genuine, healthy respect for other cultures, and were not in the least afraid to travel to and live among them, while retaining a deep faith in and affection for their own.

    BTW, couple of links for you to read at your leisure. The first is a piece about Japan’s approach to its immediate and longer-term issues. The second is a Telegraph blog by Ed West re immigration issues. It makes a couple of pithy points in line with the rhetorical question you posed recently about whether any non-Western peoples valued the dogma of diversity in their own countries. Ed doubts whether the Chinese even have a word for diversity.

    Regards.

    http://www.city-journal.org/2011/21_2_japan.html

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/edwest/100089855/the-government-cannot-control-immigration-until-it-leaves-the-eu/

  2. stephenhopewell says:

    Liam, thank you for the great comment. You have written the article that should have accompanied the poem. I like the irony – the English child can only imagine his own home as “home” – but the foreign children are just as much at home where they live. The sad thing to add is that now all the foreign children have moved to England and our child can no longer feel at home.
    I will look at the links you provided, thanks! By the way, I’m enjoying listening to The Coral, something you recommended some time back.

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