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.
—Robert Louis Stevenson, “The Land of Counterpane”
Stevenson’s “Land of Counterpane” requires no visa. Border guards won’t inspect you bags; its frontiers, in fact, are unprotected.
As an only child I walked that gentle, rolling countryside — there are no cities in the parts I saw — and napped against the trunks of ancient oaks. It was playground and refuge for an eight-year-old. My near contemporary, fantasy writer Terry Brooks [born 1944], says it well: “Growing up, I didn’t have a lot of toys, and personal entertainment depended on individual ingenuity and imagination – think up a story and go live it for an afternoon.” Many of my afternoons were there. No lead soldiers for me, though; my time was occupied with design.
The open invitation to spend an afternoon or two in Agincourt is still open. Some have come with me and played; a friend is there even as I write this and what he makes for exhibit #3 will enhance the story and make it ours, rather than mine alone. That thought is highly satisfying; the contribution, gratifying.
Just now I glimpsed my epitaph: “He moved to Agincourt.”