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"The Dumb Soldier" Topic

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1,367 hits since 18 Mar 2022
©1994-2024 Bill Armintrout
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doc mcb18 Mar 2022 12:57 p.m. PST

The Dumb Soldier
Robert Louis Stevenson – 1850-1894

When the grass was closely mown,
Walking on the lawn alone,
In the turf a hole I found,
And hid a soldier underground.

Spring and daisies came apace;
Grasses hide my hiding place;
Grasses run like a green sea
O'er the lawn up to my knee.

Under grass alone he lies,
Looking up with leaden eyes,
Scarlet coat and pointed gun,
To the stars and to the sun.

When the grass is ripe like grain,
When the scythe is stoned again,
When the lawn is shaven clear,
Then my hole shall reappear.

I shall find him, never fear,
I shall find my grenadier;
But for all that's gone and come,
I shall find my soldier dumb.

He has lived, a little thing,
In the grassy woods of spring;
Done, if he could tell me true,
Just as I should like to do.

He has seen the starry hours
And the springing of the flowers;
And the fairy things that pass
In the forests of the grass.

In the silence he has heard
Talking bee and ladybird,
And the butterfly has flown
O'er him as he lay alone.

Not a word will he disclose,
Not a word of all he knows.
I must lay him on the shelf,
And make up the tale myself.

William Warner18 Mar 2022 2:27 p.m. PST

A wonderful Stevenson poem that I had not read before. Thanks.

Oberlindes Sol LIC Supporting Member of TMP18 Mar 2022 2:49 p.m. PST

That's beautiful. Thanks. It sent me back to my childhood, to a spring day I found one of my plastic army men in my backyard after the snow had melted.

Nick Bowler18 Mar 2022 9:56 p.m. PST

I do love Kipling. If anyone hasnt read it, I highly recommend 'Limits and Renewals'.

doc mcb19 Mar 2022 5:08 a.m. PST

The Land of Counterpane
Robert Louis Stevenson – 1850-1894

When I was sick and lay a-bed,
I had two pillows at my head,
And all my toys beside me lay
To keep me happy all the day.

And sometimes for an hour or so
I watched my leaden soldiers go,
With different uniforms and drills,
Among the bed-clothes, through the hills;

And sometimes sent my ships in fleets
All up and down among the sheets;
Or brought my trees and houses out,
And planted cities all about.

I was the giant great and still
That sits upon the pillow-hill,
And sees before him, dale and plain,
The pleasant land of counterpane.

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP19 Mar 2022 6:50 a.m. PST

Love The Land of Counterpane – remember it well as a child

Ed Mohrmann Supporting Member of TMP19 Mar 2022 7:08 a.m. PST

Memories….thanks !

Bismarck19 Mar 2022 9:35 a.m. PST

These are wonderful. Sure makes you think about that first
toy soldiers and some great childhood memories. I know toy
soldiers have been around a long time, but was really
surprised at the time frame and the author.
Many, many thanks!

doc mcb20 Mar 2022 6:08 a.m. PST

I knew Counterpane as a kid, from CHILDCRAFT, but the Dumb Soldier was new to me. A friend spotted it and thought of me.

The Tin Dictator21 Mar 2022 12:58 p.m. PST

If you can find a copy of RLS's "Stevenson at Play" series you will find them quite fun to read. Its a series about him and his (brother ?) playing campaigns with toy soldiers in their attic as kids.

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP21 Mar 2022 1:24 p.m. PST

Thanks for the tip!

arthur181522 Mar 2022 5:32 a.m. PST

Stevenson at Play is actually an article by his stepson, Lloyd Osbourne, recalling campaigns he played with RLS as a boy. You can find the Scribner's article at: link

Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP23 Mar 2022 6:07 a.m. PST

Thanks for the link, arthur1815! Delightful little read for a war gamer.

I will correct your understanding— while the introduction is indeed by Osbourne, the bulk of the text— the supposed "dispatches, news reports, editorial commentaries and notes," are by Stevenson, which he wrote during the time the campaign was played, as an amusement for himself and his stepson. In some ways this is an unadulterated look into the man's mind, as the notes were not written for general public consumption, and thus neither revised nor edited (save perhaps by Osbourne). I particularly enjoyed the bits from the supposed Yalobally Record and the fate of its editor. laugh

arthur181523 Mar 2022 7:59 a.m. PST

Parzival, having read the article in full, myself, several years ago, I was fully aware that it contained extensive quotations from Stevenson's battle reports and campaign newspaper, so you do not need to 'correct my understanding' thereof.

In the context in which I was posting, my statement was a perfectly reasonable correction of the comment by The Tin Dictator which contained several inaccuracies and simply a correct attribution of the entire Scribner's article, not a detailed analysis of its contents.


Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP24 Mar 2022 9:12 a.m. PST

Arthur1815, I meant no offense. You did state that the article was by Osbourne, though of course only the introduction is— the rest is lifted from Stevenson's notes and "printed dispatches." (I like that Osbourne specifically mentions Stevenson's printing press as being among the "hobby" possessions used, which I think is a lark— almost like today when we have printers and design software which people use for similar purposes and more. I offer this merely as an amused aside.). So if you prefer, my statement is a clarification of what your wrote, not a refutation. If I misread your intent, I apologize. In any case, as I said, I meant no offense or disparagement. And I remain grateful for the link— it was very entertaining, and it's amusing to see how so many elements which we still use in wargaming today derive from the very sort of imaginings, methods and mechanics which Stevenson and his stepson developed together. It is also a delightful window into the man's relationship with the young Osbourne, which clearly meant a great deal to the boy, who had a life lacking in a strong father figure up to that point.

arthur181525 Mar 2022 11:49 a.m. PST

Parzival, apology accepted, thank you.

My only objection to your clarification of the contents of Stevenson at Play was the patronising 'I will correct your understanding'. Perhaps it is an example of 'two nations divided by a common language'?

I have written, and had published in magazines, many articles which consisted largely of extensive quotations from primary sources. It was never suggested by the editors of those magazines that I was not the author of the article.
Lloyd Osbourne wrote a lengthy introduction and also selected the extracts from his stepfather's writings, so the position seems the same.

Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP25 Mar 2022 7:44 p.m. PST

It certainly wasn't meant to be patronizing in any way. I suspect that Osbourne himself would have said what his introduction essentially did say— that he wrote the intro, but that the words of the dispatches and notes were Stevenson's, though certainly likely edited by him, being pulled from handwritten notes (which were also neat to see) and the printed "dispatches." I would say it was indeed Osbourne's article— it wouldn't have seen print without his work— but the significance of Stevenson's own words being the bulk of it is key— which I also think Osbourne would say. It's on the order of some of Christopher Tolkien's releases of his father's unpublished works. Christopher compiled, edits, and writes extensive introductions and notes, and therefore puts a lot of effort into these, but the point for the reader is what JRR Tolkien himself wrote, and that's where the interest lies. Osbourne is doing the same thing; he's the author of the article, but not the writer of Stevenson's words.
Since the interest for the reader is not merely that the article describes Stevenson's play, but that it contains Stevenson's own humorous accounts of this great "war," I think it's important to point that out.

Wolfhag07 Apr 2022 6:43 a.m. PST

In the Marines the Rifleman/grunt MOS is 0311, sometimes called an 03 dumb-dumb. I was one. During VN with the lowered test scores to qualify (Mental Category 4 was an IQ of 70) we had a lot of dumb-dumbs as did the Army.


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