The world is so full of a number of things,
I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.
Robert Louis Stevenson, A Child’s Garden of Verses
In my edition of A Child’s Garden of Verses, the illustration next to this short poem titled ‘Happy Thought’ is a cheery scene of children on a bright sunny day. Fresh fruits, kittens, flowers, a singing bird, and the rippling water of a lake.
Is the world only ‘so full’ for children, for whom and about whom ostensibly this poem is written? Perhaps the fullness that children experience is fundamentally a matter of inexperience, of not seeing things as clearly as adults do? So does clearer vision reveal that things are not as good as we thought?
Clearer vision does in fact reveal that ‘things’—in the sense of the amazing natural accoutrements of the world—are not themselves happiness-producing. Yet at the same time the child-like conviction that a world so furnished can and should be a happy place seems to embody a wisdom that we adults often lack.
The world really is full of a number of things. And they are a sure sign that we can, and even should be, as happy as kings.
R.L Stevenson (1850-1894) is the great Scottish author of Treasure Island, Kidnapped and other classics.
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