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Full text of "Prayers written at Vailima"

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PR 

5488 

.P75 

1900 

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Books by Robert Louis Stevenson 

AN INLAND VOYAGE. 
EDINBURGH: PICTURESQUE NOTES. 
TRAVELS WITH A DONKEY. 

VIRGINIBUS PUERISQUE. 

FAMILIAR STUDIES OF MEN AND BOOKS. 

NEW ARABIAN NIGHTS. 

TREASURE ISLAND. 

THE SILVERADO SQUATTERS. 

A CHILD'S GARDEN OF VERSES. 

PRINCE OTTO. 

THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE. 

KIDNAPPED. 

THE MERRY MEN. 

UNDERWOODS. 

MEMORIES AND PORTRAITS. 

THE BLACK ARROW. 

THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE. 

FATHER DAMIEN : AN OPEN LETTER. 

BALLADS. 

ACROSS THE PLAINS. 

ISLAND NIGHTS' ENTERTAINMENTS. 

A FOOTNOTE TO HISTORY. 

CATRIONA. 

WEIR OF HERMISTON. 

VAILIMA LETTERS. 

FABLES. 

SONGS OF TRAVEL. 

ST. IVES. 

IN THE SOUTH SEAS. 

ESSAYS OF TRAVEL. 

TALES AND FANTASIES. 

ESSAYS IN THE ART OF WRITING. 

PRAYERS WRITTEN AT VAILIMA. 

A CHRISTMAS SERMON. 

with Mrs. Stevenson 

THE DYNAMITER. 

with Lloyd Osbourne 

THE WRONG BOX. THE WRECKER. THE EBB-TIDE. 



PRAYERS 



PRAYERS 

WRITTEN AT VAILIMA 

BY 

ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON 

WITH 

AN INTRODUCTION 
BY 

MRS. STEVENSON 



TORONTO 
THE MUSSON BOOK CO. 

LIMITED 



Edinburgh : T. and A. CONSTABLE, Printers to His Majesty 



INTRODUCTION 

IN every Samoan household the day 
is closed with prayer and the 
singing of hymns. The omission of 
this sacred duty would indicate, not 
only a lack of religious training in 
the house chief, but a shameless dis- 
regard of all that is reputable in 
Samoan social life. No doubt, to 
many, the evening service is no more 
than a duty fulfilled. The child who 
says his prayer at his mother s knee 
can have no real conception of the 
meaning of the words he lisps so 
readily, yet he goes to his little bed 
with a sense of heavenly protection 
that he would miss were the prayer 
forgotten. The average Samoan is 
but a larger child in most things, and 



would lay an uneasy head on his 
wooden pillow if he had not joined, 
even perfunctorily, in the evening 
service. With my husband, prayer, 
the direct appeal, was a necessity. 
When he was happy he felt impelled 

to offer thanks for that undeserved 
x/ t/ 

joy ; when in sorrow, or pain, to call 
for strength to bear what must be 
borne. 

Vailima lay up some three miles of 
continual rise from Apia, and more 
than half that distance from the near- 
est village. It was a long way for a 
tired man to walk down every even- 
ing with the sole purpose of joining 
in family worship ; and the road 
through the bush was dark, and, to 
the Samoan imagination, beset with 
supernatural terrors. Wherefore, 



VI 



as soon as our household had fallen 
into a regular routine, and the bonds 
of Samoan family life began to draw 
us more closely together, Tusitalafelt 
the necessity of including our retainers 
in our evening devotions. I suppose 
ours was the only white mans family 
in all Samoa, except those of the 
missionaries, where the day naturally 
ended with this homely, patriarchal 
custom. Not only were the religious 
scruples of the natives satisfied, but, 
what we did not foresee, our own re- 
spectability and incidentally that of 
our retainers became assured, and 
the influence of Tusitala increased 
tenfold. 

After all work and meals were 
finished, the 'pu,' or war conch, was 
sounded from the back veranda and 



vn 



the front, so that it might be heard by 
all. I dont think it ever occurred to 
us that there was any incongruity in 
the use of the war conch for the peace- 
ful invitation to prayer. In response 
to its summons the white members of 
the family took their usual places in 
one end of the large hall, while the 
Samoans men, women, and children 
trooped in through all the open 
doors, some carrying lanterns if the 
evening were dark, all moving quietly 
and dropping will i Samoan decorum in 
a wide semicircle on the floor beneath 
a great lamp that hung from the 
ceiling. The service began by my son 
reading a chapter from the Samoan 
Bible, Tusitala following with a prayer 
in English, sometimes impromptu, but 
more often from the notes in this little 

viii 



book, interpolating or changing with 
the circumstances of the day. Then 
came the singing of one or more 
hymns in the native tongue, and the 
recitation in concert of the Lord's 
Prayer, also in Samoan. Many 
of these hymns were set to ancient 
tunes, very wild and warlike, and 
strangely at variance with the mis- 
sionary words. 

Sometimes a passing hand of hostile 
warriors, with blackened faces, would 
peer in at us through the open 
windows, and often we were forced 
to pause until the strangely savage, 
monotonous noise of the native drums 
had ceased ; but no Samoan, nor, I 
trust, white person, changed his 
reverent attitude. Once, I remember 
a look of surprised dismay crossing 



IX 



the countenance of Tusitala when my 
son, contrary to his usual custom of 
reading 1 the next chapter following 
that of yesterday, turned back the 
leaves of his Bible to find a chapter 
fiercely denunciatory, and only too 
applicable to the foreign dictators of 
distracted Samoa. On another occa- 
sion the chief himself brought the 
service to a sudden check. He had 
just learned of the treacherous con- 
duct of one in whom he had every 
reason to trust. That evening the 
prayer seemed unusually short and 
formal. As the singing stopped he 
arose abruptly and left the room. I 
hastened after him, fearing some 
sudden illness. ' What is it f ' / asked. 
' It is this,' was the reply ; 6 1 am not 
yet fit to say, "Forgive us our tres- 



passes as we forgive those who tres- 
pass against us" 

It is with natural reluctance that I 
touch upon the last prayer of my 
husband's life. Many have supposed 
that he showed, in the wording of this 
prayer, that he had some premonition 
of his approaching death. I am sure 
he had no such premonition. It was 
I who told the assembled family that 
I felt an impending disaster approach- 
ing nearer and nearer. Any Scot 
will understand that my statement 
was received seriously. It could not 
be, we thought, that danger threat- 
ened any one within the house; but 
Mr. Graham Balfour, my husband's 
cousin, very near and dear to us, was 
away on a perilous cruise. Our fears 
followed the various vessels, more or 



XI 



less unseaworthy, in which he was 
making his way from island to island 
to the atoll where the exiled king, 
Mataafa, was at that time imprisoned. 
In my husbands last prayer, the 
night before his death, he asked that 
we should be given strength to bear 
the loss of this dear friend, should 
such a sorrow befall us. 



xii 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 

FOR SUCCESS . . 1 

FOR GRACE .... 3 

AT MORNING .... 4 

EVENING 5 

ANOTHER FOR EVENING . . 7 

IN TIME OF RAIN ... 8 

ANOTHER IN TIME OF RAIN . 9 

BEFORE A TEMPORARY SEPARATION 10 
FOR FRIENDS . . . .11 

FOR THE FAMILY 12 

SUNDAY 14 

FOR SELF-BLAME ... 16 

FOR SELF-FORGETFULNESS . . 18 

FOR RENEWAL OF JOY 19 



X1U 



PRAYERS 

FOE, SUCCESS 

E1RD, behold our family here 
assembled. We thank Thee 
for this place in which we dwell; 
for the love that unites us ; for 
the peace accorded us this day; for 
the hope with which we expect the 
morrow; for the health, the work, 
the food, and the bright skies, that 
make our lives delightful; for our 
friends in all parts of the earth, and 
our friendly helpers in this foreign isle. 
Let peace abound in our small com- 
pany. Purge out of every heart the 
lurking grudge. Give us grace and 
strength to forbear and to persevere. 
Offenders, give us the grace to accept 
and to forgive offenders. Forgetful 



ourselves, help us to bear cheerfully 
the forgetfulness of others. Give us 
courage and gaiety and the quiet 
mind. Spare to us our friends, soften 
to us our enemies. Bless us, if it 
may be, in all our innocent endea- 
vours. If it may not, give us the 
strength to encounter that which is 
to come, that we be brave in peril, 
constant in tribulation, temperate in 
wrath, and in all changes of fortune, 
and, down to the gates of death, loyal 
and loving one to another. As the 
clay to the potter, as the windmill to 
the wind, as children of their sire, we 
beseech of Thee this help and mercy 
for Christ's sake. 



FOR GRACE 

GRANT that we here before 
Thee may be set free from 
the fear of vicissitude and the fear of 
death, may finish what remains be- 
fore us of our course without dis- 
honour to ourselves or hurt to others, 
and, when the day comes, may die in 
peace. Deliver us from fear and 
favour : from mean hopes and cheap 
pleasures. Have mercy on each in 
his deficiency ; let him be not cast 
down ; support the stumbling on 
the way, and give at last rest to the 
weary. 



AT MORNING 



THE day returns and brings us 
the petty round of irritating 
concerns and duties. Help us to 
play the man, help us to perform 
them with laughter and kind faces, 
let cheerfulness abound with in- 
dustry. Give us to go blithely on 
our business all this day, bring us to 
our resting beds weary and content 
and undishonoured, and grant us in 
the end the gift of sleep. 



EVENING 

WE come before Thee, O 
Lord, in the end of thy 
day with thanksgiving. 

Our beloved in the far parts of the 
earth, those who are now beginning 
the labours of the day what time we 
end them, and those with whom the 
sun now stands at the point of noon, 
bless, help, console, and prosper 
them. 

Our guard is relieved, the service 
of the day is over, and the hour 
come to rest. We resign into thy 
hands our sleeping bodies, our cold 
hearths, and open doors. Give us 
to awake with smiles, give us to 
labour smiling. As the sun returns 
in the east, so let our patience be 
renewed with dawn; as the sun 



lightens the world, so let our loving- 
kindness make bright this house of 
our habitation. 



ANOTHER FOR EVENING 

ERD, receive our supplications 
for this house, family, and 
country. Protect the innocent, re- 
strain the greedy and the treacherous, 
lead us out of our tribulation into a 
quiet land. 

Look down upon ourselves and 
upon our absent dear ones. Help us 
and them ; prolong our days in peace 
and honour. Give us health, food, 
bright weather, and light hearts. In 
what we meditate of evil, frustrate 
our will; in what of good, further our 
endeavours. Cause injuries to be for- 
got and benefits to be remembered. 

Let us lie down without fear and 
awake and arise with exultation. 
For his sake, in whose words we 
now conclude. 



IN TIME OF RAIN 

WE thank Thee, Lord, for the 
glory of the late days and 
the excellent face of thy sun. We 
thank Thee for good news received. 
We thank Thee for the pleasures 
we have enjoyed and for those we 
have been able to confer. And now, 
when the clouds gather and the rain 
impends over the forest and our 
house, permit us not to be cast down; 
let us not lose the savour of past 
mercies and past pleasures ; but, like 
the voice of a bird singing in the 
rain, let grateful memory survive 
in the hour of darkness. If there 
be in front of us any painful duty, 
strengthen us with the grace of 
courage ; if any act of mercy, teach 
us tenderness and patience. 



8 



ANOTHER IN TIME OF RAIN 

ElRD, Thou sendest down rain 
upon the uncounted millions 
of the forest, and givest the trees to 
drink exceedingly. We are here 
upon this isle a few handfuls of 
men, and how many myriads upon 
myriads of stalwart trees ! Teach 
us the lesson of the trees. The sea 
around us, which this rain recruits, 
teems with the race of fish ; teach 
us, Lord, the meaning of the fishes. 
Let us see ourselves for what we 
are, one out of the countless number 
of the clans of thy handiwork. When 
we would despair, let us remember 
that these also please and serve 
Thee. 



9 



BEFORE A TEMPORARY SEPARATION 

TO-DAY we go forth separate, 
some of us to pleasure, some 
of us to worship, some upon duty. 
Go with us, our guide and angel; 
hold Thou before us in our divided 
paths the mark of our low calling, 
still to be true to what small best we 
can attain to. Help us in that, our 
maker, the dispenser of events 
Thou, of the vast designs, in which 
we blindly labour, suffer us to be so 
far constant to ourselves and our 
beloved. 



10 



FOR FRIENDS 

FOR our absent loved ones we 
implore thy loving-kindness. 
Keep them in life, keep them in 
growing honour ; and for us, grant 
that we remain worthy of their love. 
For Christ's sake, let not our be- 
loved blush for us, nor we for them. 
Grant us but that, and grant us 
courage to endure lesser ills un- 
shaken, and to accept death, loss, 
and disappointment as it were straws 
upon the tide of life. 



II 



FOR THE FAMILY 

AD us, if it be thy will, in our 
concerns. Have mercy on 
this land and innocent people. Help 
them who this day contend in dis- 
appointment with their frailties. 
Bless our family, bless our forest 
house, bless our island helpers. Thou 
who hast made for us this place of 
ease and hope, accept and inflame 
our gratitude ; help us to repay, in 
service one to another, the debt of 
thine unmerited benefits and mer- 
cies, so that, when the period of our 
stewardship draws to a conclusion, 
when the windows begin to be dark- 
ened, when the bond of the family is 
to be loosed, there shall be no bitter- 
ness of remorse in our farewells. 
Help us to look back on the long 



12 



way that Thou hast brought us, on 
the long days in which we have been 
served, not according to our deserts, 
but our desires ; on the pit and the 
miry clay, the blackness of despair, 
the horror of misconduct, from which 
our feet have been plucked out. For 
our sins forgiven or prevented, for 
our shame unpublished, we bless and 
thank Thee, O God. Help us yet 
again and ever. So order events, so 
strengthen our frailty, as that day by 
day we shall come before Thee with 
this song of gratitude, and in the 
end we be dismissed with honour. 
In their weakness and their fear, the 
vessels of thy handiwork so pray to 
Thee, so praise Thee. Amen. 



SUNDAY 

WE beseech Thee, Lord, to be- 
hold us with favour, folk of 
many families and nations gathered 
together in the peace of this roof, 
weak men and women subsisting 
under the covert of thy patience. 
Be patient still ; suffer us yet awhile 
longer ; with our broken purposes 
of good, with our idle endeavours 
against evil, suffer us awhile longer 
to endure, and (if it may be) help us 
to do better. Bless to us our extra- 
ordinary mercies ; if the day come 
when these must be taken, brace us 
to play the man under affliction. Be 
with our friends, be with ourselves. 
Go with each of us to rest ; if any 
awake, temper to them the dark 
hours of watching; and when the 



day returns, return to us, our sun 
and comforter, and call us up with 
morning faces and with morning 
hearts eager to labour eager to 
be happy, if happiness shall be our 
portion and if the day be marked 
for sorrow, strong to endure it. 

We thank Thee and praise Thee ; 
and in the words of him to whom 
this day is sacred, close our oblation. 



FOR SELF-BLAME 

ERD, enlighten us to see the 
beam that is in our own eye, 
and blind us to the mote that is 
in our brother's. Let us feel our 
offences with our hands, make them 
great and bright before us like the 
sun, make us eat them and drink 
them for our diet. Blind us to the 
offences of our beloved, cleanse them 
from our memories, take them out 
of our mouths for ever. Let all 
here before Thee carry and measure 
with the false balances of love, and 
be in their own eyes and in all con- 
junctures the most guilty. Help us 
at the same time with the grace of 
courage, that we be none of us cast 
down when we sit lamenting amid 
the ruins of our happiness or our 



16 



integrity: touch us with fire from 
the altar, that we may be up and 
doing to rebuild our city : in the 
name and by the method of him 
in whose words of prayer we now 
conclude. 



B 17 



FOR SELF-FORGETFULNESS 

ERD, the creatures of thy hand, 
thy disinherited children, 
come before Thee with their inco- 
herent wishes and regrets : Children 
we are, children we shall be, till our 
mother the earth hath fed upon our 
bones. Accept us, correct us, guide 
us, thy guilty innocents. Dry our 
vain tears, wipe out our vain resent- 
ments, help our yet vainer efforts. 
If there be any here, sulking as 
children will, deal with and enlighten 
him. Make it day about that person, 
so that he shall see himself and be 
ashamed. Make it heaven about him, 
Lord, by the only way to heaven, 
forgetfulness of self, and make it 
day about his neighbours, so that 
they shall help, not hinder him. 



18 



FOR RENEWAL OF JOY 

WE are evil, O God, and help 
us to see it and amend. 
We are good, and help us to be 
better. Look down upon thy ser- 
vants with a patient eye, even as 
Thou sendest sun and rain ; look 
down, call upon the dry bones, 
quicken, enliven ; recreate in us the 
soul of service, the spirit of peace ; 
renew in us the sense of joy. 



Printed by T. and A. CONSTABLE, Printers to His Majesty 
at the Edinburgh University Press 



a 






PR 5488 .P75 1900 SMC 
Stevenson, Robert Louis, 
Prayers written at Vailima 
47079042