The Wind by Robert Louis Stevenson

‘The Wind’ by Robert Louis Stevenson inquires into the nature of the wind. Stevenson uses a young speaker in order to adequately convey a child-like wonder of this common element.

The Wind by Robert Louis Stevenson Visual Representation

Although Stevenson is best known as a novelist, he was also a skilled poet. ‘The Wind’ was published in Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses, his children’s poetry collection. 

The Wind 
Robert Louis Stevenson

I saw you toss the kites on high
And blow the birds about the sky;
And all around I heard you pass,
Like ladies' skirts across the grass--
        O wind, a-blowing all day long,
        O wind, that sings so loud a song!

I saw the different things you did,
But always you yourself you hid.
I felt you push, I heard you call,
I could not see yourself at all--
       O wind, a-blowing all day long,
       O wind, that sings so loud a song!

O you that are so strong and cold,
O blower, are you young or old?
Are you a beast of field and tree,
Or just a stronger child than me?
      O wind, a-blowing all day long,
      O wind, that sings so loud a song!
The Wind by Robert Louis Stevenson


Summary

‘The Wind’ by Robert Louis Stevenson is a thoughtful children’s poem about the wind.

In the poem’s first stanza, the speaker describes how he saw the wind tossing kites in the sky and blowing birds around. Despite being unable to physically see the wind, the speaker keeps tabs on it. He could feel it “push” and hear it “call.” In the final stanza, this speaker asks the wind several questions about its form. He wonders if it is a beast of the field or “just a stronger child than me.”

Structure and Form 

‘The Wind’ by Robert Louis Stevenson is a three-stanza poem that is divided into sets of six lines, known sestets. The stanzas follow a rhyme scheme of AABBCC, changing end sounds throughout the following lines. But, the last two lines of each stanza are the same. This is known as a refrain. They read: 

 O wind, a-blowing all day long,
      O wind, that sings so loud a song!

Additionally, it’s important to note the fact that Stevenson also used iambic tetrameter in this piece. This means that each line is made up of four sets of two beats. The first of which is unstressed and the second of which is stressed.

Literary Devices 

Throughout this poem, the poet makes use of several literary devices. These include but are not limited to:

  • Enjambment: can be seen when the poet cuts off a line before its natural stopping point. For example, the transition between lines one and two of the first stanza. The majority of the lines in this poem are end-stopped. 
  • Caesura: can be seen when the poet inserts a pause into the middle of a line. This can be accomplished through the use of punctuation or through a natural pause in a line. For example: “I saw you toss the kites on high.” There is a natural pause in this line between the first four syllables and the second four.
  • Personification: occurs when the poet imbues something nonhuman with human characteristics or abilities. In this case, the poet describes the wind singing a song.
  • Alliteration: occurs when the poet repeats the same consonant sound at the beginning of multiple lines. For example, “sing” and “song” in the last line of every stanza and “different” and “did” in the first line of the second stanza. 


Detailed Analysis 

Stanza One

I saw you toss the kites on high
And blow the birds about the sky;
And all around I heard you pass,
Like ladies’ skirts across the grass–
        O wind, a-blowing all day long,
        O wind, that sings so loud a song!

In the first stanza of the poem, it becomes clear quite quickly that the speaker is talking to the wind. This is known as an apostrophe. The speaker is talking to someone or something that is incapable of responding or even hearing their words. The poet also immediately uses personification to describe the wind in human-like terms.

The speaker notes how the wind moves things, like kites and birds, around the sky. By using imagery, the poet also depicts the sound of the wind blowing across the grass and moving a womens’ skirts.

The first stanza, like all the following stanzas, ends with the same two lines. This concluding closed couplet contains a textbook example of an apostrophe in that it begins with “O.” 

Stanza Two

I saw the different things you did,
But always you yourself you hid.
I felt you push, I heard you call,
I could not see yourself at all–
       O wind, a-blowing all day long,
       O wind, that sings so loud a song!

In the second stanza, the speaker continues to address the wind. Despite, perhaps, the wind’s attempts to hide, the speaker is paying close attention. He has seen all the different things the wind has done. This is despite the fact that the wind is always invisible. (The speaker sees the results of the wind’s movements rather than the wind itself.)

The second stanza contains a great example of caesura: “I felt you push, I heard you call.” There is a pause created through a natural stopping point in the meter and a comma. Both sides of the statement also use “I.” 

Stanza Three

O you that are so strong and cold,
O blower, are you young or old?
Are you a beast of field and tree,
Or just a stronger child than me?
      O wind, a-blowing all day long,
      O wind, that sings so loud a song!

In the final stanza, the speaker addresses the wind one last time. He asks the element questions, as a child would. The speaker wonders if the wind is young or old, a “beast of field and tree” or “just a stronger child than me.” It is in these lines that the speaker’s identity, as a child, is revealed. It makes the inquisitive statements in the previous stanzas easier to understand. 

FAQs 

What is the purpose of ‘Windy Nights?’ 

The purpose of this poem is to explore the nature of the wind. The speaker spends the three stanzas of this poem describing the wind’s actions and, in the last stanza, asking the wind questions. Through personification, the young speaker makes the wind an interesting character.

What is the tone of ‘Windy Nights?’ 

The tone is inquisitive and interested. The young speaker is amazed by the winds’ actions. He keeps tabs on it every time he sees it pass, moving the grass or kites in the sky. He wonders where it comes from and what kind of creature it is.

Who is the speaker in ‘Windy Nights?’ 

The speaker is a young child. This is revealed in the third stanza. The identity of this child is unknown. But, the poem is easy to understand without knowing the child’s specific identity.


Similar Poetry 

Readers who enjoyed this poem should also consider reading some other Robert Louis Stevenson poems. For example: 

  • Autumn Fires’ – a straightforward, celebratory poem that compares autumn colors to a raging wildfire.
  • My Shadow’ – told from the perspective of a child who is trying to understand what purpose his shadow serves.
  • Rain’ – a simple poem that depicts the rain in four short lines as it falls “all around” impacting several different settings. 

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The Wind by Robert Louis Stevenson Visual Representation
Emma Baldwin Poetry Expert
About
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues through analyzing poetry on Poem Analysis.
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