‘From a Railway Carriage’
by Robert Louis Stevenson
Faster than fairies, faster than witches,
Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches;
And charging along like troops in a battle,
All through the meadows the horses and cattle:
All of the sights of the hill and the plain
Fly as thick as driving rain;
And ever again, in the wink of an eye,
Painted stations whistle by.
Here is a child who clambers and scrambles,
All by himself and gathering brambles;
Here is a tramp who stands and gazes;
And there is the green for stringing the daisies!
Here is a cart run away in the road
Lumping along with man and load;
And here is a mill and there is a river:
Each a glimpse and gone for ever!
Although Stevenson’s poem was likely intended to be a glimpse at what one traveler might observe out the window of a railway carriage, I read it differently. The traveler he wrote about is on a journey, just as I. He sits on a velvet, corded seat, nose pressed to the glass. I rush to straighten the dining room table and satay the fried rice. Still, we are both traveling.
The days of change and growth are as constant as the changing landscape while a train zips you through a countryside – one that seems very normal while happening but illicit such surprise when you look back on all you have traversed.
“When did this all happen? How did I get here?”
Of course, it happened much like the quickly passing river vanishes before you even find time to fully appreciate it. Beautiful to watch zip by and then gone forever, only to be held in the minds eye.
Such is childhood and the first season of being a guardian and lover of your children. The days feel like years until the years are gone and you strain your neck to see if you can catch one last glimpse of the setting sun in the rearview.
I’m not sure Stevenson meant for this poem to hit a parent in the way it hit me, but if he did he certainly succeeded. Many snapshots are hidden in the vault of my mind; many moments that I will not see again but will always relish.
And many more are still to come. I’ll be sitting and staring out the window at the quickly disappearing panorama and reveling in all it’s majesty.