In the poem "Vagabond" by Robert Louis Stevenson, what is the meaning of the line "give the face of earth around"?  

In the poem "Vagabond" by Robert Louis Stevenson, what is the meaning of the line "give the face of earth around"?

 

 

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liesljohnson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

That line appears twice, in the nearly-identical second and fourth stanzas of "Vagabond" by Robert Louis Stevenson, and it means "Let me see the ground all around me," or in other words, "Allow me to be here on the earth and see the land stretch out all around me."

You can understand that line better by backing up and looking at it in the context of the entire stanza:

Let the blow fall soon or late,
Let what will be o'er me;
Give the face of earth around
And the road before me.
Wealth I seek not, hope nor love,
Nor a friend to know me;
All I seek, the heaven above
And the road below me.

To paraphrase the stanza above, the speaker is saying, "Let whatever's going to happen, happen, including my own death. Give me the land around me and the road in front of me. I don't want to be rich or have hope or love. I don't even need a close friend. I just need the sky above me and the road under my feet." The speaker might be talking to himself, or to God, or to other people around him.

All this makes sense when you consider that the main idea of the poem is a celebration of the life of a vagabond: a wanderer, someone who goes all over the country, living outdoors, enjoying nature and freedom and life itself. The speaker is describing his joyful life of exploration and solitude, part of which includes embracing the gift and the beauty of the land that surrounds him.

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