Who Were They?

Lost and forgotten photos from the past

Reading in bed

Reading in bed

This unknown boy is using a nice bed tray to properly elevate his book for optimal reading posture. I have often wondered about the purpose of the photo. It is a matte print that reminds me of a professional photograph. Perhaps it was for an advertisement or magazine. From the time I found the photo to the moment I saw the prompt for this week’s Sepia Saturday, I kept thinking it reminded me of something, but I wasn’t sure just what. Finally it dawned on me that it reminds me of the Robert Louis Stevenson poem “The Land of Counterpane.”

When I was sick and lay a-bed,

I had two pillows at my head,

And all my toys beside me lay

To keep me happy all the day.

And sometimes for an hour or so

I watched my leaden soldiers go,

With different uniforms and drills,

Among the bed-clothes, through the hills;

And sometimes sent my ships in fleets

All up and down among the sheets;

Or brought my trees and houses out,

And planted cities all about.

I was the giant great and still

That sits upon the pillow-hill,

And sees before him, dale and plain,

The pleasant land of counterpane.

I always liked the imagery in the poem. Even as a child of the 1970s, I knew that a counterpane is a bed spread, that small boys used to play with toy soldiers, and that imagination could rescue you from boredom. I sometimes thought I would like a set of toy soldiers and trees and houses, but alas, that did not come to be.

For more introspection and images from around the world, click over to Sepia Saturday. You will be happy you did.

A laying in

13 thoughts on “Land of Counterpane

  1. La Nightingail says:

    When I was 9, I had a bad case of bronchitis & by Dr.’s orders, had to spend my days – for several weeks – sitting quietly doing quiet things which I was more than willing to do because anything strenuous caused me to cough uncontrollably. I wasn’t confined to bed, but sat in a chair up to a card table in the living room & there upon, dressed my dolls in myriad outfits, and drew or colored pictures. I remember longing to play with cars or blocks & Tinker Toys or with people from the “People Box”, but I couldn’t because my brother & sister played with those things & I couldn’t touch anything they touched. Sometimes I had to do homework when my teacher came visiting, bringing me lessons to complete so I wouldn’t fall behind in school, and I didn’t mind because at least it was something different to do!


  2. Marvellous post. I also remember the poem from a 70s childhood and most particularly the illustration that went with it. Lovely memories, thanks.


  3. Alex Daw says:

    Bingo. Snap. There’s a couple of us who remember this favourite poem :)


  4. Little Nell says:

    How funny, as Alex says, a favourite with me too. That’s a nice picture of the boy who is concentrating very hard on his book.


  5. Jackie says:

    Interesting that you are the second person to mention RLS.


  6. boundforoz says:

    It’s a beautiful poem. I suspect that there wouldn’t be many people in this group who didn’t know it. I suppose today’s version would be all about lying in bed playing electronic games !


  7. Absolutely spot on perfect for this week’s theme! One of my favorite poems too. I like the idea the photo was evidence of diligence under duress to be shown to his teacher.


  8. Karen S. says:

    A lovely post, great poem and what a cool table for reading or whatever!


  9. postcardy says:

    I also wonder what the purpose of the photo was. It certainly looks posed and well lit, and the blanket is unnaturally smooth.


  10. Sharon says:

    I am one of the few to have never heard that poem before. It is lovely.

    Yes I agree, it does look like a professional photo.


  11. Bob Scotney says:

    I remember the poem. Now where can I get a table like that?


  12. Tattered and Lost says:

    Little cars amongst the bedding was my salvation. Even on days when I could not sit up I could lie there pushing my little cars through the bedding canyons.


  13. TICKLEBEAR says:

    The 3rd one to be speaking of that poem…
    And oddly enough, I seem to remember it as well.
    Was it ever translated in French,
    or did I read it in its original version?
    I had so many books back then [much like now…]
    and was often sick, so, I had plenty of time to play in bed and read.
    That is a perfect picture!!!


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