About the Poet – Robert Louis Stevenson was a novelist and a poet born in Edinburgh. He was never a healthy person as a child and often remained sick. He began studying engineering in the Edinburgh University, but he soon switched to law leaving engineering in the middle. However, he had always loved writing. For several years, he travelled around to gather ideas on his writing. He has written a variety of essays and short stories which were published in magazines. He established his name in the literary world with the publication of Treasure Island in 1883 and Kidnapped in 1886. He wrote Daniel Dafoe to which he added a twist of psychological analysis.
About the Poem
Robert Louis Stevenson has given a perspective of an innocent child in the poem, by writing it from the perspective of a small boy. The small boy is fascinated seeing the growth. The child keeps experimenting to understand the nature of his shadow, and is surprised by how it grows tall and small in the same day. He does not understand science, and is quite excited to observe how his shadow follows him everywhere and does the exact body movements he does. Through this poem, the poet has tried to show the enthusiasm and curiosity over smallest things by children, and how they learn about things around them from their own perspective. They do not quit experimenting and learning about the things until they have tried everything to understand how it works and how it functions. For example, in the last stanza, the child wakes up before sunrise to see if his shadow would follow him then. When he found that there is no shadow sticking to him from his feet, he realised that his shadow is not only a coward because he always sticks to him, but also a lazy-head, who is sleeping sound in the bed.My Shadows is a poem of a child’s enthusiasm and curiosity towards the shadow, which grows abnormally tall and small in the same day. He sees his shadow, and is excited to see how the shadow is exactly like him from heel to head, and is always with him. He thinks of the shadow like just another person, and hence compares it with the activities and nature of any other child that he knows. He says that the shadow always follows him, does exact body movement like the child does. He finds his shadow a little cowardly in nature, as he wouldn’t leave his side, and play with the other children. Instead, he will keep following him everywhere. But once the shadow is leaves him, when the child wakes up before sunrise, and sees that his shadow is not following him then.
Setting of the Poem
The poem is about a child becoming curious about his own shadow.
He is fascinated how the shadow is different from what he has seen and come across. He is fascinated how it grows big and small in the same day, unlike the children he has come across. He sees the shadow is just like him from the heel to his head, and always follows him wherever he goes. He sees that the shadow always follows him, sticks to him, and never leaves him alone.
The poet has set a mood of child’s enthusiasm and curiosity in the poem. He has written it from the perspective of a small boy, and how he sees his shadow. The small boy gets excited to see the shadow following him. The poet has set a tone of innocence of a child by writing the poem in a way how the child does not understand the science of the world, and does not understand the shadow and how it functions.
By externalizing the perspective of looking at the shadow, the poet gives a touch of innocence, fascination, and excitement to the poem.
heels up to the head: The poet has used this term to show that the shadow is much like him at every part of the body. It is identical to him in every possible way.
india-rubber ball: The term has been used by the poet to show the pace of how the shadow grows fast and becomes small in one day. India-rubber ball is generally a ball used by children to play, which is hard in nature.
dew on every buttercup: The poet has used the term to portray the freshness of early morning. This also marks the time when the sun is only now rising in the horizon and there is dew everywhere on leaves and grass.
Summary of My Shadow
I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,
And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.
He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;
And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed
In this stanza, the boy is fantacised with his shadow, and likes to observe it. He says that he has a little shadow that is always present with him when he is going out anywhere in the sun. The boy knows that there is more that he can do with the shadow than just observing it following him around everywhere. The boy says that it is just like him from the heel to the head. Here, the poet uses “heel to head” to show that the boy is fascinated that the shadow is connected to him from the heel, and then grows towards the head. The boy is excited to see how it is always ahead of him, and jumps in the bed before he does. He gets excited to see how the shadow is always following him, but is always ahead of him too.
The funniest thing about him is the way he likes to grow—
Not at all like proper children, which is always very slow;
For he sometimes shoots up taller like an india-rubber ball,
And he sometimes gets so little that there’s none of him at all.
The boy is fantasised by how the shadow grows abnormally like he has never seen before. He says that the shadow grows faster, unlike the normal kids, who grow slower than him. He also gets excited to see how the shadow grows bigger all of a sudden without his knowledge, and sometimes it is so small that it is not seen at all. He is surprised by how the shadow grows big and small everyday, which h he has not seen happening to anyone or anything else around him.
He hasn’t got a notion of how children ought to play,
And can only make a fool of me in every sort of way.
He stays so close beside me, he’s a coward you can see;
I’d think shame to stick to nursie as that shadow sticks to me!
The boy now says that his shadow does not how the normal kids are ought to play and have fun around. He says that the shadow does not know how to behave like the normal children, but only fool him around with its tricks in all the possible ways that the boy could think of. The boy says that it stays very close to him when he is playing and running around. He thinks that the shadow is a coward, and cannot leave him. It only stays behind him, and follows him wherever he goes.
One morning, very early, before the sun was up,
I rose and found the shining dew on every buttercup;
But my lazy little shadow, like an arrant sleepy-head,
Had stayed at home behind me and was fast asleep in
The poet now describes a moment when the boy got up from his bed in the early morning before sunrise. He woke to a beautiful dewy morning, where he saw dew shining on every leaf. The sun was only in the horizon, and there was not much light around him, and he could not see his shadow. The poet portrays the excitement of the boy to see that for the first time his shadow was not following him, and he says that his shadow felt lazy and stayed behind at home. While he was enjoying the sunrise, his shadow stayed at his bed. This also means, that when the boy got in the bed, his shadow went in with him, but when he got out of it in the morning, his shadow didn’t come along. You may be go through the detailed analysis of the poem here.
Keywords: Summary of My Shdow, My shadow meaning, My shadow explanation.