The Unseen Playmate

I came across this poem when I researched the history of fairy bread. It’s called ‘The Unseen Playmate’, written by Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson (13 November 1850-3 December 1894). You can read his collection of poems in A Child’s Garden of Verses (published in 1885) here.

In essence, the poem is about children’s play, and specifically, children using their imagination when they play. I believe this sort of play is so importance, and I guess that is why it resonated so strongly. To me, the unseen friend in the poem — the invisible playmate, the losing opponent, the outdoor companion, the caretaker of toys — could be represented by a child’s imagination. I love how the author treats this part of a child as a seperate entity; one that supports and provides happiness to a child. Play matters. Yes.

The Unseen Playmate by Robert Louis Stevenson

The Unseen Playmate

WHEN children are playing alone on the green,

In comes the playmate that never was seen.

When children are happy and lonely and good,

The Friend of the Children comes out of the wood.

Nobody heard him and nobody saw,

His is a picture you never could draw,

But he’s sure to be present, abroad or at home,

When children are happy and playing alone.

He lies in the laurels, he runs on the grass,

He sings when you tinkle the musical glass;

Whene’er you are happy and cannot tell why,

The Friend of the Children is sure to be by!

He loves to be little, he hates to be big,

‘Tis he that inhabits the caves that you dig;

‘Tis he when you play with your soldiers of tin

That sides with the Frenchmen and never can win.

‘Tis he when at night you go off to your bed,

Bids you go to your sleep and not trouble your head;

For wherever they’re lying, in cupboard or shelf,

‘Tis he will take care of your playthings himself!

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  • Reply
    Seana Smith
    March 2, 2017 at 7:23 pm

    Hello Kelly, I do love this too. I had a copy of this book when I was little. RLS was such a wonderful writer and adventurer. His stories from the South Pacific are such a joy.

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