“All day we tacked and tacked between the South Head and the North;
All day we hauled the frozen sheets, and got no further forth;
All day as cold as charity, in bitter pain and dread,
For very life and nature we tacked from head to head.
She staggered to her bearings, but the sails were new and good,
And the ship smelt up to windward just as though she understood.
As the winter’s day was ending, in the entry of the night,
We cleared the weary headland, and passed below the light.
And they heaved a mighty breath, every soul on board but me,
As they saw her nose again pointing handsome out to sea;
But all that I could think of, in the darkness and the cold,
Was just that I was leaving home and my folks were growing old.”
– Robert Louis Stevenson – Christmas at Sea (1888)
(Stephenson novels – including Treasure Island, Kidnapped and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – are better known than his poetry. Born in Edinburgh he studied engineering and law but gave up both for writing. A long-time sufferer from tuberculosis he died of the disease in Samoa where he’d settled with his wife in 1889.)