Poem of the week: Robert Louis Stevenson – ‘Escape at Bedtime

National Poetry Day takes place on 4 October, and will be celebrated with readings, events, competitions, quizzes, exhibitions, and much more.

The theme this year is “stars”, which is commemorated with a series of eight postcards, each featuring a different poem about, yes, those twinkly things in the night sky. Norman MacCaig, Iain Crichton Smith, and Iain Hamilton Finlay are a few of the poets featured, as is Robert Louis Stevenson. His “Escape at Bedtime” recalls an ecstatic childhood vision of stars.

The lights from the parlour and kitchen shone out

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Through the blinds and the windows and bars;

And high overhead and all moving about,

There were thousands of millions of stars.

There ne’er were such thousands of leaves on a tree,

Nor of people in church or the Park,

As the crowds of the stars that looked down upon me,

And that glittered and winked in the dark.

The Dog, and the Plough, and the Hunter, and all,

And the star of the sailor, and Mars,

These shone in the sky, and the pail by the wall

Would be half full of water and stars.

They saw me at last, and they chased me with cries,

And they soon had me packed into bed;

But the glory kept shining and bright in my eyes,

And the stars going round in my head.

You can, while stocks last, collect all eight of the National Poetry Day “star” postcards by visiting or sending a SAE to the Scottish Poetry Library, 5 Crichton’s Close, Edinburgh EH8 8DT. Tel: 0131-557 2876, e-mail [email protected] or see www.spl.org.uk for details.