What is the meaning of the lines "Or let autumn fall on me / Where afield I linger, / Silencing the bird on tree, / Biting the blue finger" in "The Vagabond"?

In "The Vagabond," these lines mean that the vagabond doesn’t care how bad the weather will get. He loves the freedom of the open road, even if it means that autumn will descend on him when he’s lingering in a field. He doesn’t mind if the weather is so cold that it silences the birds or bites into his icy blue fingers.

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To fully understand the four lines you mention, we should probably take a look at the entire poem first.

What is "The Vagabond" about? In the first line, Robert Louis Stevenson writes, "Give to me the life I love." Though we are dealing with a poem, we might...

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To fully understand the four lines you mention, we should probably take a look at the entire poem first.

What is "The Vagabond" about? In the first line, Robert Louis Stevenson writes, "Give to me the life I love." Though we are dealing with a poem, we might look at the first line as a thesis statement. It tells us what the poem will be about: it will concern the kind of life our speaker loves.

What kind of life is that? Is it a comfy life with a nice house, loving family, and caring friends? We don't think so. "Wealth I seek not, hope nor love, / Nor a friend to know me," writes Stevenson.

What our speaker loves is not conventional luxury or relationships. Rather, our speaker seems enamored with the outdoors. Their "bed" is "in the bush." All they seek is "heaven above, / And the road below."

Now, we should see how the four lines reinforce what our speaker loves about life. It's privation, struggle, and hardship that appear to propel our speaker.

When they say "let autumn fall on me," are they not welcoming the upcoming bareness and hardship? It seems so. "Biting the blue finger" suggests that a little frostbite isn't going to bring our speaker down. They will still "linger" outside. Even if the bird on the tree has quieted, our speaker will still be out and about.

Again, we can conclude that the four lines you're concerned with reflect our speaker's will and drive to embrace the struggle and conflict of a nomadic life lived in nature. Our speaker seems to make that clear in the poem’s final two lines: "Not to autumn will I yield, / Not to winter even!"

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These lines in the third stanza of Stevenson's "The Vagabond" describe the harsher circumstances the wandering vagabond has to face as the weather turns cold. We see that the life of the vagabond is not all carefree pleasure, for when the seasons change, he spends much time outdoors in challenging conditions.

In this stanza, the speaker describes fall as the silencing of the birds. It is a time when the cold gets so acute that his fingers turn blue, a painful, "biting" sensation.

Nevertheless, the speaker states his determination not to "yield" to the weather. The wandering life still holds great appeal for him, and he can warm his cold fingers, as he says, before the "fireside haven," presumably of an inn or tavern.

This stanza shows that this poem is not pastoral, a genre artificially depicting the natural world as in an eternal spring or summer. It romanticizes the wandering life, but it does not shy away from its downside. Part of our admiration for the vagabond emerges from the way he holds to his conviction that the freedom of the wanderer is a better path than settled domesticity, even when the going gets tough for him. He is willing to embrace privation to live on his own terms.

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These particular lines from Stevenson’s “The Vagabond” illustrate the carefree attitude that the eponymous speaker has for life out on the open road. On the face of it, life may be hard for the vagabond, as he walks from place to place in all weathers, sleeping in fields and living off the land. It must be particularly hard during the autumn and winter, when the temperatures drop and the weather can turn quite nasty.

Despite the inevitable privations of his lifestyle, the vagabond takes them all in his stride. He derives so much freedom from his intolerant lifestyle that he’s willing to put up with cold weather conditions. He clearly regards them as an occupational hazard and a very minor one at that. Inclement weather may come and go, but so long as the vagabond still has the freedom of the open road, that’s all that matters.

In the above lines, the vagabond is stating that he doesn’t mind at all if autumn, with its subzero temperatures, should descend on him while he’s lingering in a field somewhere. He doesn’t even mind if the sudden onset of cold weather silences the birds in the trees or bites deep into his cold blue fingers.

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These lines are from “The Vagabond,” a poem written by Robert Louis Stevenson and included in a collection of other poems he wrote entitled Songs of Travel. “The Vagabond” is about a life of wandering and travel. The poet asks only for “the jolly heaven above / And the byway nigh me.” He desires neither hearth nor home, but only the sky above him and the road beneath his feet.

In these particular lines, the poet is emphatic in his desire to wander, come what may, even in the harsher seasons. He says to go ahead and “let autumn fall on me / Where afield I linger.” He will wander, even when autumn begins to fall, signaling the harshness of the winter to come; even so, he will be lingering in the fields, in the open, with no habitation but the sky and road and fields. Not only does the onset of autumn signal the coming of winter, it also succeeds in “silencing the bird on tree.” In the autumn, even the birds succumb to the weather and seek warmer climes. Even when the birds take flight and their very songs are taken away from him, the poet will still linger in the meadows and “the frosty field.” Even as the poet remembers the “warm . . . fireside haven,” he still insists, “not to autumn will I yield, / Not to winter even!”

As far as the line “Biting the blue finger,” Stevenson could be referring to the cold fingers of frostbite in the winter turning blue. The term may possibly be a lost Scottish idiom, but as far as I have researched, I cannot find any evidence of that.

Robert Louis Stevenson, a nineteenth century novelist, poet, and essayist, was a prolific writer and a consummate wanderer. Due to ill health from childhood lung and respiratory issues thought to be tuberculosis, Stevenson traveled the world, a vagabond of sorts, attempting to find a climate that might soothe his health. He ultimately settled in Samoa, where he died, and was buried, in 1894.

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