Is the speaker in "The Vagabond" worried about death?

Quick answer:

The speaker in "The Vagabond" is not worried about death at all. He knows that sooner or later he will eventually die, but in the meantime he is content and even joyful as long as he can continue to experience the freedom of the open road.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In the poem "The Vagabond" by Robert Louis Stevenson, the speaker refers to life on the road as "the life I love." He likes to spend his days with the open sky above and the road before him, and at night he is content to sleep "in the bush with stars to see." If he can enjoy the pleasures of the open road, he does not seek wealth, hope, love, or friendship.

The speaker in this poem makes it clear that he does not fear or worry about death. In fact, he seems indifferent to his ultimate destiny. He knows that someday he will die, but he seems to almost challenge death when he writes, "Let the blow fall soon or late, / Let what will be o'er me." In other words, he realizes that death could come at any time, but until it happens, whether sooner or later, he will continue to travel freely.

In the third stanza, the onset of autumn represents the coming of old age, but the speaker declares that he will not yield even to this, or to winter, which represents death. He continues to ask for nothing except to be able to continue to walk the open road.

It is interesting to note that Stevenson was a renowned traveler, so the emphatic love of travel that the speaker in this poem expresses comes from the author's own experience. Stevenson's first two books were travel books about wandering the roads and waterways in France. Later, Stevenson traveled to other countries in Europe, to America, and to the South Pacific. Stevenson traveled for his health as well as for pleasure. In his youth he suffered from weak lungs and other maladies, and for a time his heath improved as he voyaged in the South Pacific. He and his family eventually settled in Samoa, where he became known in the local vernacular as "Teller of Tales." He died in Samoa on December 3, 1894, as a traveler far from his homeland.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial