Celia Thaxter.

Stories and poems for children online

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gossip ! what is the matter ? " and then stood watching
it in mute dismay. Suddenly it flashed across me
that tliis was only my sandpiper's way of concealing


from me a nest; and I remembered reading about this
little trick of hers in a book of Natural History. The
object was to make me follow her by pretending she
could not fly, and so lead me away from her treasure.
So I stood perfectly still, lest I should tread on the
precious habitation, and quietly observed my deceitful
little friend. Her apparently desperate and hopeless
condition grew so comical when I reflected that it was
only affectation, that I could not help laughing loud
and long. "Dear gossip," I called to her, "pray
don't give yourself so much unnecessary trouble! You
might know I wouldn't hurt you or your nest for the
world, you most absurd of birds ! " As if she under-
stood me, and as if she could not brook being ridi-
culed, up she rose at once, strong and graceful, and
flew off with a full, round, clear note, delicious to

Then I cautiously looked for the nest, and found it
quite close to my feet, near the stem of a stunted bay-
berry bush. Mrs. Sandpiper had only drawn together
a few bayberry leaves, brown and glossy, a little pale
green lichen, and a twig or two, and that was a pretty
enough house for her. Four eggs about as large- as
robins' were within, all laid evenly with the small
ends together, as is the tidy fashion of the Sandpiper
family. ISTo wonder I did not see them; for they
were pale green like the lichen, with brown spots the

110 THE sandpiper's NEST

color of the leaves and twigs, and they seemed a part
of the ground, with its confusion of soft neutral tints.
I could not admire them enough, but, to relieve my
little friend's anxiety, I came very soon away, and as
I came I marveled much that so very small a head
should contain such an amount of cunning.





Across the narrow beach we flit,

One little sandpiper and I;
And fast I gather, bit by bit,

The scattered driftwood bleached and dry.
The wild waves reach their hands for it,

The wild wind raves, the tide runs high,
As up and down the beach we flit, —

One little sandpiper and I.

Above our heads the sullen clouds

Scud black and swift across the sky;
Like silent ghosts in misty shrouds

Stand out the white light-houses high.
Almost as far as eye can reach

I see the close-reefed vessels fly,
As fast we flit along the beach, —

One little sandpiper and I.

I watch him as he skims along

Uttering his sweet and mournful cry;


He starts not at my fitful song,
Or flash of fluttering drapery.

He has no thought of any wrong;
He scans me with a fearless eye.

Stanch friends are we, well tried and strong,
The little sandpiper and I.

Comrade, where wilt thou be to-night

When the loosed storm breaks furiously ?
My driftwood fire will burn so bright!

To what warm shelter canst thou fly ?
I do not fear for thee, though wroth

The tempest rushes through the sky:
For are we not God's children both,

Thou, little sandpiper, and I ?


The alder by the river

Shakes out her powdery curls;

The willow buds in silver
For little boys and girls.

The little birds fly over

And oh, how sweet they sing!

To tell the happy children
That once again 't is spring.


The gay green grass comes creeping

So soft beneath their feet;
The frogs begin to ripple

A music clear and sweet.

And buttercups are coming,

And scarlet columbine,
And in the sunny meadows

The dandelions shine.

And just as many daisies

As their soft hands can hold
The little ones may gather,

All fair in white and gold.

Here blows the warm red clover,

There peeps the violet blue;
O happy little children!

God made them all for you.


The old-wives sit on the heaving brine,

White-breasted in the sun,
Preening and smoothing their feathers finej,

And scolding, every one.


The snowy kittiwakes overhead,

"With beautiful beaks of gold,
And wings of delicate gray outspread,

Float, listening while they scold.

And a foolish guillemot, swimming by,
Though heavy and clumsy and dull.

Joins in with a will when he hears their cry
'Gainst the Burgomaster Gull.

For every sea-bird, far and near.
With an atom of brains in its skull,

Knows plenty of reasons for hate and fear
Of the Burgomaster Gull.

The black ducks gather, with plumes so rich,
And the coots in twinkling lines;

And the swift and slender water- witch,
W^hose neck like silver shines;

Big eider-ducks, with their caps pale green
And their salmon-colored vests;

And gay mergansers sailing between.
With their long and glittering crests.

But the loon aloof on the outer edge

Of the noisy meeting keeps.
And laughs to watch them behind the ledge

Where the lazy breaker sweeps.


They scream and wheel, and dive and fret,

And flutter in the foam;
And fish and mussels blue they get

To feed their young at home:

Till hurrying in, the little auk

Brings tidings that benumbs,
And stops at once their clamorous talk, — »

" The Burgomaster comes ! ''

And up he sails, a splendid sight!

With " wings like banners " wide,
And eager eyes both big and bright,

That peer on every side.

A lovely kittiwake flying past

With a slippery pollock fine, —
Quoth the Burgomaster, "Not so fast,

My beauty ! This is mine ! "

His strong wing strikes with a dizzying shock;

Poor kittiwake, shrieking, flees;
His booty he takes to the nearest rock,

To eat it at his ease.

The scared birds scatter to left and right,

But the bold buccaneer, in his glee.
Cares little enough for their woe and their fright, —

"'Twill be 7/OU7' turn next! " cries he.


He sees not, hidden behind the rock,
In the seaweed, a small boat's hull,

Nor dreams he the gunners have spared the flock
For the Burgomaster Gull.

So proudly his dusky wings are spread,
And he launches out on the breeze, —

When lo ! what thunder of wrath and dread !
What deadly pangs are these!

The red blood drips and the feathers fly,

Down drop the pinions wide;
The robber- chief, with a bitter cry,

Palls headloncr in the tide !


They bear him off with laugh and shout;

The wary birds return, —
From the clove-brown feathers that float about

The glorious news they learn.

Then such a tumult fills the place

As never was sung or said;
And all cry, wild with joy, "The base,

Bad Burgomaster 's dead! "

And the old-wives sit with their caps so white,

And their pretty beaks so red.
And swing on the billows, and scream with delight,

For the Burgomaster 's dead!



Little Gustava sits in the sun,
Safe in the porch, and the little drops run
"From the icicles under the eaves so fast,
For the bright spring sun shines warm at last.
And glad is little Gustava.

She wears a quaint little scarlet cap,
And a little green bowl she holds in her lap,
Filled with bread and milk to the brim,
And a wreath of marigolds round the rim:
"Ha, ha! " laughs little Gustava.

Up comes her little gray, coaxing cat.

With her little pink nose, and she mews, "What's

Gustava feeds her, — she begs for more ;
And a little brown hen walks in at the door;
" Good-day ! " cries little Gustava.

She scatters crumbs for the little brown hen.
There comes a rush and a flutter, and then
Down fly her little white doves so sweet.
With their snowy wings and their crimson feet:
" Welcome ! " cries little Gustava.


So dainty and eager they pick up the crumbs '^
But who is this through the doorway comes 1
Little Scotch terrier, little dog Bags,
Looks in her face, and his funny tail wags:
"Ha, ha!" laughs little Gustava.

" You want some breakfast, too ? " and down
She sets her bowl on the brick floor brown; '
And little dog Rags drinks up her milk,
While she strokes his shaggy locks, like silk:
" Dear Eags ! " says little Gustava.

Waiting without stood sparrow and crow,
Cooling their feet in the melting snow :
^* Won't you come in, good folk? " she cried.
But they were too bashful, and stayed outside,
Though "Pray come in!" cried Gustava.

So the last she threw them, and knelt on the mat
With doves and biddy and dog and cat.
And her mother came to the open house-door:
"Dear little daughter, I bring you some more,
My merry little Gustava ! "

Kitty and terrier, biddy and doves,
All things harmless Gustava loves.
The shy, kind creatures 'tis joy to feed,
And oh, her breakfast is sweet indeed
To happy little Gustava!



I WAKE ! I feel the day is near ;

I hear the red cock crowing !
He cries " 'T is dawn! " How sweet and clear
His cheerful call comes to my ear,

While light is slowly growing.

The white snow gathers, flake on flake;

I hear the red cock crowing!
Is anybody else awake
To see the winter morning break,

While thick and fast 'tis snowing?

I think the world is all asleep;

I hear the red cock crowing!
Out of the frosty pane I peep;
The drifts are piled so wide and deep,

And wild the wind is blowing!

Nothing I see has shape or form;

I hear the red cock crowing!
But that dear voice comes through the storm
To greet me in my nest so warm,

As if the sky were glowing!

A happy little child, I lie

And hear the red cock crowing.


The day is dark. I wonder why
His voice rings out so brave and high,
With gladness overflowing.


A CHILD looked up in the summer sky
Wliere a soft, bright shower had just passed by;
Eastward the dusk rain- curtain hung,
And swiftly across it the rainbow sprung.

" Papa ! Papa ! what is it ? " she cried,
As she gazed with her blue eyes opened wide
At the wonderful arch that bridged the heaven,
Vividly glowing with colors seven.

"Why, that is the rainbow, darling child,"
And the father down on his baby smiled.

"What makes it, papa?" "The sun, my dear,
That shines on the water-drops so clear."

Here was a beautiful mystery !

No more questions to ask had she,

But she thought the garden's loveliest flowers

Had floated upward and caught in the showers —

Hose, violet, orange marigold —

In a ribbon of light on the clouds unrolled!


Red of poppy, and green leaves too,
Sunflower yellow, and larkspur blue.

A great, wide, wondrous, splendid wreath
It seemed to the little girl beneath;
How did it grow so fast up there,
And suddenly blossom, high in the air ?

She could not take her eyes from the sight:
" Oh, look ! " she cried in her deep delight.

As she watched the glory spanning the gloom,
" Oh, look at the beautiful water- bloom ! "


Oh, the dear, delightful sound
Of the drops that to the ground
From the eaves rejoicing run
In the February sun!
Drip, drip, drip, they slide and slip
From the icicles' bright tip,
Till they melt the sullen snow
On the garden bed below.
" Bless me ! what is all this drumming ? "
Cries the crocus, "I am coming!
Pray don't knock so long and loud,
For I 'm neither cross nor proud.
But a little sleepy still,


With the winter's lingering chill.
Never mind! 'Tis time to wake,
Through the dream at last to break ! "
'T is as quickly done as said ;
Up she thrusts her golden head,
Looks about with radiant eyes
In a kind of shy surprise,
Tries to say in accents surly,

** Well ! you called me very early ! "
But she lights with such a smile
All the darksome place the while,
Every heart begins to stir
Joyfully at sight of her;
Every creature grows more gay
Looking in her face to-day.
She is greeted, "Welcome, dear!
Eresh smile of the hopeful year!
Eirst bright print of Spring's light feet.
Golden crocus, welcome, sweet ! "
And she whispers, looking up
Erom her richly glowing cup.
At the sunny eaves so high
Overhead against the sky,

"Now I 've come, sparkling drops,
All your clattering, pattering stops.
And I 'm very glad I came,
And you 're not the least to blame
That you hammered at the snow


Till you wakened me below
With your one incessant tune.
I 'm not here a bit too soon! '^


The white dove sat on the sunny eaves,

And " What will you do when the north wind grieves 1 "

She said to the busy nuthatch small,

Tapping above in the gable tall.

He probed each crack with his slender beak.
And much too busy he was to speak.
Spiders, that thought themselves safe and sound,
And moths and flies and cocoons he found.

Oh! but the white dove she was fair.
Bright she shone in the autumn air.
Turning her head from the left to the right;
Only to watch her was such delight !

" Coo ! " she murmured, " poor little thing.
What will you do when the frosts shall sting?
Spiders and flies will be hidden or dead,
Snow underneath and snow overhead."

Nuthatch paused in his busy care:

" And what will you do, white dove fair ? '^


"Oh, kind hands feed me with crumbs and grainj
And I wait with patience for spring again."

He laughed so loud that his laugh I heard.
" How can you be such a stupid bird !
What are your wings for, tell me, pray,
But to bear you from tempests and cold away 1


Merrily off to the south I fly,
In search of the summer, presently,
And warmth and beautv I '11 find anew.
Why don't you follow the summer, too?"

But she cooed content on the sunny eaves,
And looked askance at the reddening leaves;
And grateful I whispered: "0 white dove true,
I '11 feed you and love you the winter through.''


The moon is tired and old;
In the morning darkness cold
She drifts up the paling sky,
With cheek flushed wearily.

A little longer, and lo !
She is lost in the sun's bright glow;
A thin shell, pearly and pale,
'Mid soft white clouds that sail.

THE birds' orchestra 127

Art faint and sad, dear moon?
Gladness shall find thee soon!
Sorry art thou to wane?
Thou shalt be young again!

And beautiful as before
Thou shalt live in the sky once more;
From the baby crescent small
Thou shalt grow to the golden ball:

And again will the children shout,
" Oh, look at the moon, look out ! "
For thou shalt be great and bright
As when God first made night.


Bobolink shall play the violin,

Great applause to win;
Lonely, sweet, and sad, the meadow lark

Plays the oboe. Hark!
That inspired bugle with a soul —

'T is the oriole;
Yellow-bird the clarionet shall play,

Blithe, and clear, and gay.
Purple finch what instrument will suit?

He can play the flute.
Fire-winged blackbirds sound the merry fife,

Soldiers without strife;


And the robins wind the mellow horn

Loudly eve and morn.
Who shall clash the cymbals? Jay and crow)

That is all they know.
Hylas twang their harps so weird and high,

Such a tuneful cry !
And to roll the deep, melodious drum,

Lo! the bullfrogs come!
Then the splendid chorus, who shall sing

Of so fine a thing 1
Who the names of the performers call

Truly, one and all? .
Bluebird, bunting, catbird, chickadee

(Phcebe-bird is he),
Swallow, creeper, crossbill, cuckoo, dove,

Wee wren that I love;
Brisk flycatcher, finches — what a crowd !

Kingbird whistling loud;
Sweet rose-breasted grossbeak, vireo, thrush— «

Hear these two, and hush;
Scarlet tanager, song sparrow small

(Dearer he than all;
At the first sound of his friendly voice

Saddest hearts rejoice),
Eedpoll, nuthatch, thrasher, plover gray —

Curlew did I say ?
What a jangling all the grakles make!

Is it some mistake?


Anvil chorus yellow-hammers strike,

And the wicked shrike
Harshly creaks like some half-open door;

He can do no more.


Oh, tell me, little children, have you seen her —
The tiny maid from Norway, Nikolina?
Oh, her eyes are blue as corn flowers 'mid the corn,
And her cheeks are rosy red as skies of morn!

Oh, buy the baby's blossoms if you meet her.
And stay with gentle words and looks to greet her;
She '11 gaze at you and smile and clasp your hand,
But no word of your speech can understand.

Nikolina! Swift she turns if any call her.
As she stands among the poppies hardly taller,
Breaking off their flaming scarlet cups for you,
With spikes of slender larkspur, brightly blue.

In her little garden many a flower is growing —
Eed, gold, and purple in the soft wind blowing;
But the child that stands amid the blossoms gay
Is sweeter, quainter, brighter even than they.

Oh, tell me, little children, have you seen her —
This baby girl from Norway, Nikolina ?


Slowly she 's learning English words, to try
And thank you if her flowers you come to buyo


Little dun cow to the apple-tree tied,

Chewing the cud of reflection,
I that am milking you, sit by your side,

Lost in a sad retrospection.

Far o'er the field the tall daisies blush warm,

For rosy the sunset is dying;
Across the still valley, o'er meadow and farmj

The flush of its beauty is lying.

White foams the milk in the pail at my feet.

Clearly the robins are calling;
Soft blows the evening wind after the heat, ,

Cool the long shadows are falling.

Little dun cow, 'tis so tranquil and sweet!

Are you light-hearted, I wonder ?
What do you think about, — something to eat ?

On clover and grass do you ponder ?

I am remembering days that are dead.

And a brown little maid in the gloaming,

Milking her cow, with the west burning red
Over "'vaves tV?-^ -^bout her ^^ere foaming.


Up from the sad east the deep shadows gloomed

Out of the distance and found her;
Lightly she sang while the solemn sea boomed

Like a great organ around her.

Under the light-house no sweet-brier grew.

Dry was the grass, and no daisies
Waved in the wind, and the flowers were few

That lifted their delicate faces.

But oh, she was happy, and careless, and blesl^

Full of the song sparrow's spirit;
Grateful for life, for the least and the best

Of the blessings that mortals inherit.

Fairer than gardens of Paradise seemed

The desolate spaces of water;
Nature was hers, — clouds that frowned — stars that
gleamed, —

What beautiful lessons they taught her!

Would I could find you again, little maid,

Striving with utmost endeavor, —
Could find in my breast that light heart, unafraid,

That has vanished for ever and ever!



Yellow-bird, where did you learn that song,
Perched on the trellis where grapevines clamber.

In and out fluttering, all day long.

With your golden breast bedropped with amber?

Where do you hide such a store of delight,
delicate creature, tiny and slender.

Like a mellow morning sunbeam bright
And overflowing with music tender !

You never learned it at all, the song

Springs from your heart in rich completeness,

Beautiful, blissful, clear and strong.

Steeped in the summer's ripest sweetness.

To think we are neighbors of yours ! How fine .

Oh, what a pleasure to watch you together,
Bringing your fern-down and floss to reline

The nest worn thin by the winter weather!

Send up your full notes like worshipful prayers;

Yellow-bird, sing while the summer 's before you;
Little you dream that, in spite of their cares.

Here 's a whole family, proud to adore you!



Little Koger up the long slope rushing

Through the rustling corn,
Showers of dewdrops from the broad leaves brushing

In the early morn,

At his sturdy little shoulder bearing,

For a banner gay,
Stem of fir with one long shaving flaring

In the wind away !

Up he goes, the summer sunrise flushing

O'er him in his race,
Sweeter dawn of rosy childhood blushing

On his radiant face;

If he can but set his standard glorious

On the hill-top low.
Ere the sun climbs the clear sky victorious,

All the world aglow!

So he presses on with childish ardor.

Almost at the top !
Hasten, Eoger! Does the way grow harder?

Wherefore do you stop ?


From below the corn-stalks tall and slender

Comes a plaintive cry 3
Turns he for an instant from the splendor

Of the crimson sky,

Wavers, then goes flying toward the hollow,
Calling loud and clear,
" Coming, Jenny ! Oh, why did you follow ?
Don't you cry, my dear!"

Small Janet sits weeping 'mid the daisies;

*' Little sister sweet,
Must you follow Eoger ? " Then he raises

Baby on her feet.

Guides her tiny steps with kindness tender,

Cheerfully and gay,
All his courage and his strength would lend her

Up the uneven way.

Till they front the blazing east together;

But the sun has rolled
Up the sky in the still summer weather,

Flooding them w^ith gold.

All forgotten is the boy's ambition,

Low the standard lies.
Still they stand, and gaze — a sweeter vision

Ne'er met mortal eyes.


That was splendid, Eoger, that was glorious,

Thus to help the weak;
Better than to plant your flag victorious

On earth's highest peak!


Thou little child, with tender, clinging arms.

Drop thy sweet head, my darling, down and rest

Upon my shoulder, rest with all thy charms;
Be soothed and comforted, be loved and blessed.

Against thy silken, honey-colored hair
I lean a loving cheek, a mute caress;

Close, close I gather thee and kiss thy fair
White eyelids, sleep so softly doth oppress.

Dear little face, that lies in calm content
Within the gracious hollow that God made

In every human shoulder, where He meant
Some tired head for comfort should be laid!

Most like a heavy-folded rose thou art,
In summer air reposing, warm and still.

Dream thy sweet dreams upon my quiet heart;
I watch thy slumber; naught shall do thee ill.



Take heed, youth, both brave and bright^

Battles there are for you to fight !

Stand up erect and face them all,

Nor turning flee, nor wavering fall.

Of all the world's bewildering gifts,

Take only what the soul uplifts.

Keep firm your hand upon the helm

Lest bitter tempests overwhelm;

And watch lest evil mists should mar

The glory of your morning star,

And robe the glory of the day

You have not reached, in sullen gray.

Choose then, youth, both bright and brave!

Wilt be a monarch or a slave?

Ah, scorn to take one step below

The paths where truth and honor go !

On manhood's threshold stand, a king,

Demanding all that life can bring

Of lofty thought, of purpose high,

Of beauty and nobility.

Once master of yourself, no fate

Can make jomt rich world desolate,

And all men shall look up to see

The glory of your victory.



I 'll tell you a story, children,

The saddest you ever heard,
About Rupert, the pet canary,

And a terrible butcher-bird.

There was such a blinding snowstorm

One could not see at all.
And all day long the children

Had watched the white flakes fall;

And when the eldest brothers

Had kissed mamma good-night.
And up the stairs together

Had gone with their bedroom light,

Of a sudden their two fresh voices
Rang out in a quick surprise,
"Mamma! papa! come quickly

And catch him before he flies ! ^'

On a picture-frame perched lightly,

With his head beneath his wing.
They had found a gray bird sitting;

That was a curious thing!


Downstairs to the cosy parlor
They brought hun, glad to find

For the storm-tossed wanderer shelter;
Not knowmg his cruel mind!

And full of joy were the children
To think he was safe and warm,

And had chosen their house for safety
To hide from the raging storm!

"He shall stay with the pretty Rupert,
And live among mother's flowers,
And he '11 sing with our robin and sparrow; "
And they talked about it for hours.

Alas, in the early morning

There rose a wail and a cry.
And a fluttering wild in the cages,

And Eupert's voice rang high.

We rushed to the rescue swiftly;

Too late ! On the shining cage.
The home of the happy Rupert,

All rough with fury and rage,

Stood the handsome, horrible stranger,

With black and flashing eye,
And torn almost to pieces

Did poor dead Rupert lie!


Oh, sad was all the household,

And we mourned for Kupert long.

The fierce wild shrike was prisoned
In a cage both dark and strong;

And would you like, children,

His final fate to know?
To Agassiz's Museum

That pirate bird did go!


She filled her shoes with fern-seed,

This foolish little Nell,

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Online LibraryCelia ThaxterStories and poems for children → online text (page 7 of 12)