Celia Thaxter.

Stories and poems for children online

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"We 've almost reached the town.


"We '11 knock at the door of the palace,
And won't he be glad to see
The flowers we 've brought so far for him?
Think, Gretchen, how pleased he '11 be! ''

So they plodded patiently onward,
And with hands so soft and small

They knocked at the palace portal,
And sweetly did cry and call:

"Please open the door, Kaiser!

We 've brought some flowers for you,
Our arms full of Kaiserblumen,
All gay and bright and blue ! "

But nobody heeded or answered,

Till at last a soldier grand
Bade the weary wanderers leave the gate,

With a gruff and stern command.

But, "No!" cried the children, weeping;

Though trembling and sore afraid.
And clasping their faded flowers,
" We must come in! " they said.

A lofty and splendid presence
The echoing stair came down;

To know the king there was no need
That he should wear a crown.


And the children cried: "0 Kaiser,
We have brought your flowers so fail

And we are so tired and hungry !
See, Emperor, here they are ! "

They held up their withered posies.

While into the Emperor's face
A beautiful light came stealing,

And he stooped with a stately grace;

Taking the ruined blossoms,

With gentle words and mild
He comforted with kindness

The heart of each trembling child.

And that was a wonderful glory
That the little ones befell! ^

And when their heads are hoary.
They still will the story tell.

How they sat at the Kaiser's table.
And dined with princes and kings,

In that far-off day of splendor.
Filled full of marvelous things !

And home, when the sun was setting,

The happy twain were sent,
In a gleaming golden carriage.

With horses magnificent.


And like the wildest vision
Of fairy-land it seemed,

Hardly could Hans and Gretchen
Believe they had not dreamed.

And even their children's children

Eager to hear will be,
How they carried to Kaiser W^ihelm

The flowers of Germany.



The great blue heron stood all alone

By the edge of the solemn sea
On a broken boulder of gray trap stone;

He was lost in a reverie.

And when I climbed the low rough wall
At the top of the sloping beach,

To gather the driftwood great and small,
Left scattered to dry and bleach,

I saw as if carved from the broken block
On which he was standing, the bird

Like a part of the boulder of blue-gray rock,
For never a feather he stirred.


I paused to watch him. Below my breath

"0 beautiful creature," I cried,
"Do you know you are standing here close to your

By the brink of the quiet tide!

"You cannot know of the being called Man!

The lord of creation is he.
And he slays all earth's creatures wherever he can

In the air or the land or the sea.

"He 's not a hospitable friend! If he sees

Some wonderful, beautiful thing
That runs in the woodland, or floats in the breeze

On the bannerlike breadth of its wing,

" Straight he goes for his gun, its sweet life to destroy.

For mere pleasure of killing alone
He will ruin its beauty and quench all its joy

Though 'tis useless to him as a stone."

Then I cried aloud, "Fly! before over the sand

This lord of creation arrives
With his shot and his powder and gun in his hand,

Eor the spoiling of innocent lives ! "

Oh, stately and graceful and slender and tall
The Heron stood silent and still,


As if careless of warning and deaf to my call,
Unconscious of danger or ill.

"Fly! fly to some lonelier place, and fly fast!

To the very North Pole ! Anywhere ! "
Then he rose and soared high, and swept eastward at

Trailing long legs and wings in the air.


Now perhaps you may live and be happy," I said,
"Sail away, Beauty, fast as you can!
Put the width of the earth and the breadth of the sea
Betwixt you and the Being called Man."




"Oh, where is my bell," sighed the brownie,
"My sweet, sweet silver bell,
That tinkled and swung from my scarlet cap;
Now who in the world can tell ? "

On the plain in the island of Rugen

Danced the delicate fairy folk.
And the tiny bell from the tiny cap

Its curious fastening broke.


The shepherd boy Fritz next morning,

Driving his wandering sheep
'Mid the scattered stones of the Giants' graves

Saw the pretty plaything peep

Sparkling among the heather,

And fastened it to himself;
For how could he know that the bell belonged

To an underground little elf?

But the elf was in such trouble!

Aye, wandering up and down.
He was searching here and searching there,

With the tears on his cheek of brown.

For while it was missing, no slumber

Might visit the fairy's eyes;
Still must he sleepless fill the air

With mournful wails and cries.

"Oh, who has borne off my treasure
From the ground where it did lie?
Is it raven or crow or jackdaw ?
Or magpie noisy and sly ? "

Then he changed his shape to a beautiful bird,

And over the land he flew,
Over the waters of Ralov,

And the fields of green Unruh.


He searched the nest of all the birds,
He talked with them, great and small,

But never a trace of the little bell,
Could the brownie find at all.

To the green, green fields of TJnruh
Went Fritz to pasture his sheep,

For the place was sunny and fair and still
And the grass grew thick and deep.

The bird flew over. The sheep bells.

Soft tinkling, sounded low;
The wee fay thought of his talisman lost,

And warbled sad and slow.

The boy looked up and listened:

"Now what can that queer bird be?

If he thinks their bells make my cattle rich.
Why, what would he think of me ? "

Then he drew forth from his pocket
The treasure that he had found.

And the magic silver rang out clear
With a keen delicious sound.

The sprite in the bird's shape heard it,
And fairly shook with delight.

Dropped down behind a bush near by,
Hid safely out of sight.


Swift drew off his dress of feathers,

And took the shape of a crone
"Who hobbled up to the shepherd lad,

And spoke in a coaxing tone:

** Good-even, good friend, good-even!
What a charming bell you ring!
I 'd like such an one for my grandson —
Will you sell me the pretty thing ? "

"No, no, for there isn't another
In the whole wide world so fine;
My sheep will follow its tinkle.
And ask for no other sign,

"Oh, listen! Can any sorrow
Hold out against such a tone?
The weariest hour 'twill ring away.
And conquer a heart of stone."

The old dame offered him money,

A glittering golden heap,
But Fritz stood firm; "Nay, nay," he said,

"My sweet, sweet bell I '11 keep."

Then a shepherd staff she showed him,

Most beautiful to see.
Of snow-white wood all wrought and carved;

"Take this, and the bell give me.


"So long as you guide your cattle
With this you will surely thrive,
And all good fortune will follow
"Wherever your flocks you drive."

She reached him the stick. Her gesture,
So mystic, bewitched him quite,

So strange and lovely her dazzling smile,
He was blind in its sudden light.

He stretched out his hand and, "Take it,
The bell for the staff," he cried.

Like a light breeze over the fields and trees
The old crone seemed to glide.

She was gone like the down of a thistle,
Or as mists with the wind that blend,

And a tiny whir like a whistle thin
Set all his hair on end.

The staff was his, but the bell was gone,

Spirited quite away;
Fritz looked at his prize with doubtful eyes-

But who so glad as the fay ?

And he kept his fairy promise.
And Fortune to Fritz was kind.

For all his labors prospered.

And all things worked to his mind.


Before he was eighteen, mark you,

His iiocks were his own to keep,
And soon in the island of Rugen

He was master of all the sheep.

At last he was able to purchase

A knight's estate, and became
A nobleman stately and gracious,

With a loved and honored name.

Now would n't you like, little people,

Such a fairy treasure to find ?
Pick up from the grass such a magic bell

And meet with a brownie so kind ?


Oh, look, where the lilac- bush, stout and tall,

Growing close to the window low.
Is hiding a robin's nest close to the wall,

Softly piled with the light white snow !

pray you, be careful, dear little folk gay.

Spare the snug house that the pretty bird made ;
Pon't throw the storm of your snowballs this way.

And in April your care will be more than repaid.


For back with the spring your small neighbor will flit
Straight to his nest in the lilac-bush tall,

Here 'mid the buds on the bough he will sit

And talk to his mate with sweet twitter and call.

Don't you remember his glowing red breast,

And his olive brown coat and his shining black
eyes 1

How he works for his dinner and watches his nest,
A citizen sober and happy and wise !

Just out of the window you '11 have but to peep

Into the nest, such a wonder to see!
The heaven-blue eggs, lying still and asleep.

So soon all astir with the birdlings to be !


Think of the joy of that beautiful sight.

And the rapture of bliss 'mid the lovely green leaves
And the rich purple flowers, — a world of delight

All safely shut in 'neath the sheltering eaves!

Be careful, children, and kind in your play;

Protect his dear home for the brave little bird;
Don't charge with the storm of your snowballs this
And when April comes back his sweet thanks will
be heard.



"Tell you a story," my beautiful dear,

*'0f nixies, and pixies, and fairies with wings?"
Well, curl up close in the corner here,

And I '11 show you more astonishing things!

I give you this small white packet to hold.

"It rustles," you say. Both the ends are sealed.
Patience a moment, and you shall be told

Of the hundreds of captives that lie concealed

In this little paper. " What, living things 1 "
Yes, full of life. "Won't I take one out? "

Yes, only be careful, — they have no wings.

But your lightest breathing will blow them about.

There, one in your warm pink palm I lay :
You hardly can see it! "Does anything hide

In that wee atom of dust ? " you say.
Yes, wonderful glory is folded inside!

Robes, my dear, that are fit for kings;

Scarlet splendor that dazzles the eyes;
Buds, flowers, leaves, stalks, — so many things !

You look in my face with doubting surprise,


And ask, "Is it really, truly true?"

No fairy story at all this time !
Don't you remember the pop^^ that grew

At the foot of the trellis where sweet peas climbf

Last summer, close to the doorstep, where

You and I loved to sit in the sun,
And see the butterflies float in the air

When the long bright day was almost done ?

Don't you remember what joy we had

Watching that poppy grow high and higher,

In its lovely gray-green garments clad.

Till the buds one evening showed streaks of fire?

. And next day — oh ! it was all ablaze ;
Three or four flowers at once outburst
In the early sun's low, golden rays —

And you were down at the doorstep first —

And what magnificence met our sight !

What a heavenly time we had, we two,
Just adoring it, lost in delight!

Tor the gray-green leaves were spangled with dew,

And the flowers, like banners of silken flame
Unfurled, stood each on its slender stem,

While the soft breeze over them went and came
Lightly and tenderly rocking them.


Dearest, don't you remember it all?

How still it was ! Not a whisper of sound,
Till a bird sang out from the garden wall,

And you slid from the step and stood on the ground,

And the poppy was higher than your bright head!

Gently downward one flower you bent
To see in the midst of its burning red

The delicate greens in a glory blent.

Bronze-green pollen on glowing rays

From a centre of palest emerald light
In a brilliant halo beneath our gaze, —

You haven't forgotten that exquisite sight?

No, indeed! I was sure of it! Well,

All that perfection of shape and hue.
That wealth of beauty no tongue can tell.

Lies hid in this seed I have given to you.

Just such a speck in the friendly ground
I planted last May by the doorstep wide;

The selfsame marvel that then we found
This atom of dust holds shut inside.

You can't believe it? But all are there, —
Leaves, roots, flowers, stalks, color, and glowj

Tell me a story that can compare

With this for a wonder, if any you know !



Little Evelyn's cheeks bloomed in delicate pink,
And her clustering hair framed with tendril and curl

A face so lovely you never would think

She could be for a moment a cross little girl.

Yet cross she was, in a constant fret,

Every hour she spoiled with some trouble or strife,
Till every one said: "Well, I never have met

Such an ill-natured child in the whole of my life ! "

Her sister Peggy was plain and small,

Ereckled and homely, with straight brown hair;

But you never thought of her looks at all.

For she seemed to be everything sunny and fair.

'*I can't! *' and "I won't! " that was Evelyn's cry
From morning till night, against all she was told;

While Peggy's low voice would be saying, "I '11 try,"
With a patience and hope that were good to behold.

Till at last Peggy's freckles more beautiful grew
In every one's sight than all Evelyn's charms

Of pink cheeks, golden hair, and eyes violet blue;
No one wished to fold her in affectionate arms !


But Peggy ! Love found her wherever she went,

Clasped her warm little hand and looked into her

Smiled on her and blessed her with joy and content,
For her spirit within was so sweet and so wise.

Kever mind, children dear, about plainness of face,
But strive all you can to be lovely within.

And the beautiful spirit will clothe you with grace,
And this is a joy every mortal can win.


Oh, sweetly the robin warbled, wooing his little mate
Till she twittered her joyous answer, — he had not
long to wait!

Oh, the air was warm and spicy, there was sunshine and

soft showers;
To and fro they flitted gayly through the changeful

April hours.

They chose a quiet pine-tree and began to weave their

Where a forked branch gave support on which their

cosy home to rest.


And happy, happy, happy, they worked from mom till

Making the fragrant air to ring with carols of delight.

With straws and sticks and twigs and threads and

scraps and plastering clay.
And bits of leaves and wool and shreds they worked

the livelong day.

We watched them finish all, and thought to peep in

The lovely turquoise-colored eggs like jewels fair to


They sought their dainty dwelling with the dawn's

first rosy light;
Oh, horror ! What was this strange thing that met their

startled sight!

Their pretty woven cradle cup was filled up to the

With a huge cold mottled tree-toad, blinking o'er its

tidy rim!

So well content, so much at home his lazy toadship

seemed !
While o'er him fluttered both the birds and scolded

loud and screamed,


And dashed at him with angry claw, and pecked with

sharpened beak,
Striving with all their tiny might vengeance on him to


In vain, he would not budge an inch! He liked it

much too well;
So lazy, if he breathed or no, you could n't really


The frantic little house-builders took counsel thought-

Once more they swooped with ruffled plumes upon

their enemy.

And strove to hoist him o'er the edge, prying with

beak and head
And strenuous shoulder, but he lay heavy as lump of


What could they do ? In deep despair upon a bough

they sat,
And gazed down at their hated guest, so ugly and so


And in their sweet bird language excitedly they talked,
Debating eagerly how best that big toad could be


At last they settled it. They swept down on the nest


With wrath and fury in their hearts, and then with
might and main.

Working below it swift they tore their cunning ma-
Piecemeal from underneath the toad reposing stupidly !

Crumbled the clay, outflew the shreds, the straws

were scattered wide.
Larger and larger grew the hole as fast their work they


Until at last a slip, a crash! Down came that clammy

Thump! on the ground, and quawk! quoth he, and

hopped across the road,

And hid him in the grass, while high above his head

the birds
Sang Victory ! triumphantly, as plain as human words !

But they could not bear the sight of that dear ruined

home of theirs.
The centre of such hopes and joys, and such delightful



So they turned away and flew afar, and built another

And let us hope were spared the woe of such another

guest !


ISLES OF SHOALS, A. D. 1790-1892

Little maid Margaret and I,
All in the sweet May weather,
Eoamed merrily and peacefully
The island slopes together.

The sun was midway in the west
That golden afternoon;
The sparrow sat above his nest
And sang his friendly tune.

The sky was clear, the sea was calm,
The wind blew from the south
And touched us with a breath of balm,
And kissed her happy mouth.

The joyful, smiling little maid!
Her pretty hand in mine, —
"Look, Thea, at the flowers," she said.
' " See how the eyebrights shine ! "


Scattered like pearls all milky fair
Where'er our feet were set,
They glimmered, swayed by gentle air,
For little Margaret.

And here the crowfoot's gold was spilled,
And there the violet

Its cream- white buds with fragrance filled,
And all for Margaret.

I took a grassy path that led

Into a rocky dell.
"Come and I '11 show you, dear," I said,
"Sir William Pepperrell's well."

In the deep shadow of the rock
The placid water hid.
And seemed the sky above to mock
Arums and ferns amid.

"Is this Sir William Pepperrell's well?

But, Thea, who was he ? "
"A nobleman, the records tell,

A lord of high degree."

"And did he live here?" "Sometimes, yesj
Yonder his house stood, dear.
By all the scattered stones you 'd guess
A dwelling once stood here.


"There lie the doorsteps large and square,
Where feet went out and in
Long years ago; a broken stair;
And here the walls begin."

*'How long ago did they live here*?"

Gravely the small maid spoke;
** And tell me, did you know them, Thea, —

Sir William Pepperrell's folk?'^

" A hundred years they have been dead, -^

No, dear, we never met ! "
"But, Thea, you're so old," she said,
" You know you might forget !

"I 'm only six, I 'm very new,
I can't remember much."
She clasped me, as she nearer drew.
With light and gentle touch.

"Tell me, where are they now? " asked she.

Oh, question ages old!
" That, Margaret, is a mystery

No mortal has been told.

"Here stood the house, there lies the well,
And nothing more we know,
Except that history's pages tell
They lived here long ago."


"With serious eyes she gazed at me,
And for a moment's space
A shadow of perplexity
Flitted across her face.

Then dancing down the sunlit way
She gathered bud and bell,
And 'mid its terns forgotten lay
Sir William Pepperrell's well.


Care keeps its hold with constant clasp,

TVTiatever may betide us;
Grief waits the shrinking heart to grasp,
Pacing, half veiled, beside us.
But oh, the sky is blue.

And oh, the sun is bright!
And the chickadee in the dark pine-tree
Carols his meek delight.

The earth in silent snows is bound;

Want grinds and pain oppresses;
Life's awful problems who shall sound?

Its riddles sad who guesses ?

But oh, the sky is blue,
And oh, the sun is bright!


And the chickadee in the tall pine-tree
Sings in the cold's despite.

Give me of thy wise hope, dear bird,
Who brav'st the bitter weather!
Share the glad message thou hast heard,
And let us sing together.
The winter winds blow wild,
No storm can thee affright.
Thy trust teach me, chickadee,
Sweet chanting from thy height.


What will you sow, little children, what will you

In your garden you wish that sweet flowers would
blossom and grow?

Then be careful to choose from the myriads of wonder-
ful seeds

The caskets that lock up delight, and beware of the
weeds !

If you sow nettles, alas for the crop you will reap !
Stings and poison and pain, bitter tears for your eyes
to weep.



If you plant lilies and roses and pinks and sweet peas
What beauty will charm you, what perfumes on every
breeze !

Thus will it be, little folk, in the garden of life;

Sow seeds of ill-nature, you '11 reap only sorrow and

strife ;
But pleasant, kind words, gentle deeds, happy thoughts

if you sow.
What roses and lilies of love will spring round you

and grow !

Smiles will respond to yours, brighter than marigolds

And sweeter than fragrance of any sweet flower, by

From the blossoms of beautiful deeds will a blessing

And a welcome at sight of you kindle in every one's


Then what will you sow, my dear children, what will

vou sow 1
Seeds of kindness, of sweetness, of patience, drop

softly, and lo!
Love shall blossom around you in joy and in beauty,

and make
A garden of Paradise here upon earth for your sake.



He spreads his wings like banners to the breeze,
He cleaves the air afloat on pinions wide,

Leagues upon leagues across the lonely seas
He sweeps above the vast, uneasy tide.

For days together through the trackless skies,
Steadfast, without a quiver of his plumes.

Without a moment's pause for rest he flies

Through dazzling sunshine and through cloudy

Down the green gulfs he slides, or skims the foam.

Searching for booty with an eager eye.
Hovering aloft where the long breakers comb

O'er wrecks forlorn that topple helplessly.

He loves the tempest, he is glad to see

The roaring gale to heaven the billows toss,

For strong to battle with the storm is he.
The mystic bird, the wandering albatross I



The snow lies still and white,
At the gate of the glad New Year,
Whose face with hope is bright
Though the wintry world is drear.

She smiles with welcome sweet,
She speaks in accents mild;
Enter with willing feet
And the heart of a little child.

So shall you treasures find
Better than lands or gold,
Friends that are true and kind,
Love that is wealth untold.

Humbly my lessons learn,
So shall you wisdom gain
Deep peace your soul shall earn
Through the discipline of pain.

Hark to the New Year's voice
With its promise of hope and cheer!
Courage, brave hearts, rejoice!
For God is always near.


Skies may be dark with storm,
While fierce the north wind blows,
Yet earth at heart is warm,
And the snowdrift hides the rose.


What is it that gives to the plainest face
The charm of the noblest beauty ?

Not the thought of the duty of happiness.
But the happiness of duty !

This is life's lesson, children dear.
They are blest who learn it early.

For it brightens the darkest way with cheer
Though Fortune's face is surly.

There 's a certain narrow, quiet path

Of daily thinking and living.
Of little acts of sacrifice,

Of loving and forgiving, —

Of patience and obedience.

Of gentle speech and action.
Of choosing the right and leaving the wrong

With a sunny satisfaction, —


And if we never leave this path

For the thing the world calls pleasure,

There will come to meet us a heavenly joy
Beyond all power to measure.

For on this narrow, quiet way

God's angels move forever,
Waiting to crown with cheer divine

Our every high endeavor.

Yes, this is what lends to the lowliest face
The charm of the noblest beauty;

Not the thought of the duty of happiness,
But the happiness of duty !


Oh, what are all life's treasures worth

Compared to this love and its sweet surprise,

My little heaven upon the earth.

With your pale gold hair and your serious eyes!

Who could have dreamed that a joy like this
Lay in wait on life's downward slope,

To flood the heart with a freshet of bliss.
And brighten eve with the morning's hope!

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Online LibraryCelia ThaxterStories and poems for children → online text (page 11 of 12)