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Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem for St. Marianne Cope


Public domain

Philip Kosloski - published on 01/22/24

Known for his books, including 'Treasure Island' and 'The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,' Stevenson visited St. Marianne Cope in Hawaii.
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St. Marianne Cope had a profoundly generous heart. When an appeal was sent for help in caring for lepers in Hawaii, Cope leapt at the chance and was eager to help those in need.

One day in May 1889, poet and author Robert Louis Stevensoncame to Hawaii while he was sailing the ocean with his family. Stevenson is best known for his books Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. At the time he was visiting a variety of islands, looking for a place to write that was favorable to his health, and spent an extended amount of time in Hawaii.

While in Hawaii, he visited St. Marianne Cope and observed the heroic charity she possessed while serving the leper colony there. Stevenson stayed for eight days, and before leaving, he wrote the following poem.


To see the infinite pity of this place,
The mangled limb, the devastated face,
The innocent sufferer smiling at the rod—
A fool were tempted to deny his God.
He sees, he shrinks. But if he gaze again,
Lo, beauty springing from the breast of pain!
He marks the sisters on the mournful shores;
And even a fool is silent and adores.

Guest House, Kalawao, Molokai.

He was so impressed by St. Marianne that he had a piano shipped to her after he left her community.

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