I HAVE a little shadow that goes in and out with me,
And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.
He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;
And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed.
— Robert Louis Stevenson
I grew up in a Seuss-free household, but that didn’t mean growing up without rhyme. Rhyme engages your brain, it’s sing-songy, and innocent, and makes words into a game. I love rhyme. But I’ve never been fond of Dr. Seuss, I think because by the time I was introduced to him, I was already beyond that level of reading.
Instead, I grew up with a collection of poems by Robert Louis Stevenson. Better known for his novel Treasure Island, and more British than British can be in tone, his poems made me feel like I really was flying in a swing, or playing with toy soldiers on the bed, or, in this case, reciting an ode to my shadow.
In any case some of my fondest memories involve reciting Stevenson’s work with my grandmother, laughing if we made mistakes, and feeling smug and somehow accomplished if we did not.
One morning, very early, before the sun was up,
I rose and found the shining dew on every buttercup;
But my lazy little shadow, like an arrant sleepy-head,
Had stayed at home behind me and was fast asleep in bed.