Poems, by Robert Louis Stevenson, hitherto unpublished/Here lies Erotion
HERE LIES EROTION—1884
In connection with Stevenson's translations from Martial—included in the earlier Bibliophile edition,—translations that embodied two of the Roman poet's tributes to the little slave child and dearly loved playmate who died at the age of six,—it was natural to dwell on the fact that Martial's most winning poems were those concerning Erotion. The present verses show Stevenson attempting an imitation in couplets, rather than a verbal translation of Martial (Book V, No. 35), and with the previously printed poems, one beginning, "Here lies Erotion whom at six years old Fate pilfered," and the other, "This girl was sweeter than the song of swans," they constitute a modern poet's group of adaptations of an unusual theme of ancient literature.
The original poem, "De Erotio," has only ten lines. Stevenson follows them fairly closely, the changes of the actual names of Erotion's parents (Fronte and Flaccila), to "mother and sire," and the introduction of the line "Where the great ancients sit with reverend face," being the only departures from the original worthy of note.
At the bottom of his Ms. appear two alternate lines as follows:—
That swam light-footed as the thistle-burr
On thee O mother earth, be light on her.
HERE LIES EROTION
Mother and sire, to you do I commend
Tiny Erotion, who must now descend,
A child, among the shadows, and appear
Before hell's bandog and hell's gondolier.
Of six hoar winters she had felt the cold,
But lacked six days of being six years old.
Now she must come, all playful, to that place
Where the great ancients sit with reverend face;
Now lisping, as she used, of whence she came,
Perchance she names and stumbles at my name.
O'er these so fragile bones, let there be laid
A plaything for a turf; and for that maid
That ran so lightly footed in her mirth
Upon thy breast—lie lightly, mother earth!