Requiem

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Several years ago, I visited Robert Louis Stevenson’s home in Samoa, photographed his gravesite and bought vintage tapa cloth. This year, restricted by the pandemic from traveling, I used the text from his poem, and completed “Requiem”.

“Under the wide and starry sky, Dig the grave and let me lie, Glad did I live and gladly die, And I laid me down with a will. This is the verse you grave for me, Here he lies where he longed to be, Home is the sailor, home from the sea, And the hunter home from the hill.”

In 1889 Robert Louis Stevenson, Scottish author of Treasure Island and Kidnapped, settled in the Samoan islands in Vailima, a home he built for his extended family. Immersing himself in the culture, he became a reporter and an agitator, alarmed above all by what he perceived as the Samoans’ economic innocence.

In 1894 just months before his death, he addressed the island chiefs: “There is but one way to defend Samoa. Hear it before it is too late. It is to make roads, and gardens, and care for your trees, and sell their produce wisely … if you do not occupy and use your country, others will. It will not continue to be yours or your children’s”.

Stevenson died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1894 at the age of 44. The Samoans bore him on their shoulders to nearby Mount Vaea, where they buried him on a spot overlooking the sea. He was loved by the Samoans, and his tombstone epigraph, included in this book, was translated to a Samoan song of grief.

Five years later, in 1899, the Samoan Islands were partitioned between Germany and the United States.

Requiem is an edition of two, 7”x5”, with 24 pages, a drum-leaf binding with mixed media and has a vintage tapa cloth cover and box, with the text below in the back of the box.