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Where Go the Boats | SATB Chorus a cappella | 4'

Where Go the Boats sets a seemingly simple Robert Louis Stevenson text about a child’s boats sailing down a river. The child watches them; he asks when they will return, then realizes as he watches them float away that they never will. “Other little children / Shall bring my boats ashore,” he says. 


Though this poem is taken from Stevenson's book of poems for children, A Child's Garden of Verses, the poem’s undertones of loss, longing for return, and letting go reach far beyond a child’s immediate experience.


In setting this text for the Harmonium Choral Society, I was struck by the fact that the narrator copes with the lost boats in the same way an adult must cope with lost love. Though the lost objects are gone forever, they will nonetheless be loved again in the future. This setting reflects a bit of that bittersweetness and that heartache.


Purchase this piece for performance through Graphite Marketplace.


Dark brown is the river, 
      Golden is the sand. 
It flows along for ever, 
      With trees on either hand. 

Green leaves a-floating, 
      Castles of the foam, 
Boats of mine a-boating— 
      Where will all come home? 

On goes the river 
      And out past the mill, 
Away down the valley, 
      Away down the hill. 

Away down the river, 
      A hundred miles or more, 
Other little children 
      Shall bring my boats ashore.


—Robert Louis Stevenson



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