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A Good Boy
By Robert Louis Stevenson

“I woke before the morning, I was happy all the day,
I never said an ugly word, but smiled and stuck to play.”

Can a man be like a boy again? The boy’s business is to stick to play; my business is to stick to business. And still avoid ugly words. And smile.

“And now at last the sun is going down behind the wood,
And I am very happy, for I know that I’ve been good.”

How many of my days end in the knowledge that I’ve been really good? Happy indeed would be such a confidence.

“My bed is waiting cool and fresh, with linen smooth and fair,
And I must off to sleepsin-by, and not forget my prayer.”

Forgetting prayer is not the worry. Making the time to do it, and kneeling down even when exhausted and discouraged—that is the challenge.

“I know that, till tomorrow I shall see the sun arise,
No ugly dream shall fright my mind, no ugly sight my eyes,”

Days are punctuated with ugly sights; dreams too not immune to such encroachment. Can I but preserve my children?

“But slumber hold me tightly till I waken in the dawn,
And hear the thrushes singing in the lilacs round the lawn.”

Slumber rarely holds me tightly, or even till the dawn.
But when the sun arises, birds will indeed be singing; and if there’s enough of a good-boy’s heart in a man, he will hear them even still.

R.L Stevenson (1850-1894) is the great Scottish author of Treasure Island, Kidnapped, A Child’s Garden of Verses, and other classics.

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