Robert L. Stevenson's poem "The Vagabond" describes a life for which he yearns. Often, the vagabond lives his life wandering and longing for something that he may not even understand. However, this is not the case in this poem. Stevenson describes exactly what he wants from the rest of his life. The tone of the poem enthusiastically describes a life filled with a desire to bond with nature and no burdens from society. Each verse leads to that understanding:
- Stanza 1: The narrator wants to live forever under the skies, making his bed along side the road looking up at the stars. He is a man longing for solitude. Obviously, he loves nature and desires to always be a part of it.
- Stanza 2 and 4: This verse is repeated twice. Apparently, the message is at the heart of the poem. He knows that death (the blow) will come for him sometime: "Let what will be o'er me..." As long as the poet finds himself surrounded by land and nature, he will surrender to whatever comes to him. Money, material things, friends, love...none of these things interest him. All he needs is the open road before him.
- Stanza 3: When the season changes and nature has to yield to the elements, the poet still will not give in. He mentions the bitter cold and a fireside to warm him...but still he will not surrender his vagabond life.
The poem has a lyrical quality much like the old shanty tunes of the past. In fact, the poem has been put to a melody by Schubert. Wanderlust finds all of us at sometime, wishing that we were here or there. However, this narrator has more than just a dream; he craves to be a part of nature and the untethered life of the vagabond.