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Celia Thaxter.

Stories and poems for children online

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"Oh, the warm, delicious, hopeful rain!
Let us be glad together.
Summer comes flying in beauty again,
Through the fitful April weather.''

II. MAY

Skies are glowing in gold and blue;

What did the brave birds say?
Plenty of sunshine to come, they knew,

In the pleasant month of May!

She calls a breeze from the South to blow,
And breathe on the boughs so bare.

And straight they are laden with rosy snow,
And there 's honey and spice in the air!

Oh, the glad, green leaves ! Oh, the happy wind t

Oh, delicate fragrance and balm!
Storm and tumult are left behind

In a rapture of golden calm.

From dewy morning to starry night

The birds sing sweet and strong.
That the radiant sky is filled with light.

That the days are fair and long.



170 EOBIXS EAIN-SOXG

That bees are drowsy about the hive'
Earth is so warm and gay !

And 'tis joy enough to be alive
In the heavenly month of May !



EOBIN'S KAIN-SO:t^G

Robin, pipe no more of rain,

'Tis four days since we saw the sun,

And still the misty window-pane

Is loud with drops that leap and run.

Four days ago the sky was clear,

But when my mother heard you call.

She said, "That's Eobin's rain-song, dear:
Oh, well he knows when rain will fall ! '*

Fair was the morning, and I wept
Because she would not let me stray

Into the woods for flowers, but kept
My feet from wandering away.

And I was vexed to hear you cry
So sweetly of the coming storm,

And watched with brimming eyes the sky
Grow cold and dim from clear and warmo



A SONG OF EASTER 171

It seemed to me you brought it all
With that incessant, plaintive note;

And still you call the drops to fall
Upon your brown and scarlet coat.

How nice to be a bird like you,

And let the rain come pattering down,

Nor mind a bit to be wet through,
Nor fear to spoil one's only gown!

But since I cannot be a bird.

Sweet Robin, pipe no more of rain!

Your merrier music is preferred;
Forget at last that sad refrain!

And tell us of the sunshine, dear —

I 'm wild to be abroad again,
Seeking for blossoms far and near:

Kobin, pipe no more of rain!



A SONG OF EASTER

Sing, children, sing!
And the lily censers swing;
Sing that life and joy are waking and that Death no

more is king.
Sing the happy, happy tumult of the slowly brighten-
ing Spring;

Sing, little children, sing!



172 A SONG OF EASTER

Sing, children, sing!

Winter wild has taken wing.
Fill the air with the sweet tidings till the frosty echoes

ring !
Along the eaves the icicles no longer glittering cling,
And the crocus in the garden lifts its bright face to

the sun,
And in the meadows softly the brooks begin to run,

And the golden catkins swing

In the warm airs of the Spring;

Sing, little children, sing!

Sing, children, sing!
The lilies white you bring
In the joyous Easter morning for hope are blossoming;
And as the earth her shroud of snow from off her

breast doth fling,
So may we cast our fetters off in God's eternal Spring.
So may we find release at last from sorrow and from

pain,
So may we find our childhood's calm, delicious dawn

again.
Sweet are your eyes, little ones, that look with

smiling grace,
Without a shade of doubt or fear into the future's face!

Sing, sing in happy chorus, with joyful voices tell
That death is life, and God is good, and all things
shall be well;



PERSEVERANCE 1 i o

That bitter days shall cease
In warmth and light and peace,
That Winter yields to Spring, —
Sing, little children, sing!

PEESEVEEANCE

Out I went in the morning, to look at my garden gay:
Everything shone with the dewdrops that sparkling

and trembling lay
Scattered to left and to right, and the webs of the

spiders were hung
Thickly with pearls and diamonds; light in the wind

they swung.

Down in a corner, my sunflower, tall as a lilac-tree,
Shook out his tattered golden flags, and bowed and

nodded to me.
Eather heavy-headed was he, for that I did not care.
For ho, blazed all over with flowers, though rather the

worse for wear.

And under the sunflower, on the fence, a little brown

bird sat,
Trying to sing; you never heard such a queer little

song as that!
A soft brown baby sparrow, without any tail at all.
Trying his voice as he sat alone beneath the sunflower

tall.



174 PERSEVERANCE

He couldn't sing in the least, you know; he quavered

and quavered again,
Seeking so hard to recollect his father's beautiful

strain !
But his young voice was hoarse and weak; he couW

not find the tune
He used to hear above the nest in the happy days of

June.

«

But not at all was he daunted; he warbled it o'er and

o'er,
And every time I thought it grew more comical than

before.
The very sunflower seemed to laugh at the fluffy little

bird,
His broad, bright faces seemed to say, " Was ever such

music heard ! "

I said, "Never mind, my darling; you'll conquer it
by and by,

For never baby or bird could fail, with so much cour-
age to try ! "

So I left him there, still singing, and I heard him
every day

Doing bravely his little best, till winter drove him
away.



RESCUED 175

The dear bird and the golden flower! I mourned

when chilly snow
Sent south the small musician and laid the sunflower

low.
But I was sure, when in the spring the sparrows

should return,
His singing would be perfect, for he strove so hard to

learn.



EESCUED

*• Little lad, slow wandering across the sands so yel-
low,
Leading safe a lassie small, - — oh, tell me, little fellow,
Whither go you loitering in the summer weather.
Chattering like sweet-voiced birds on a bough to-
gether 1 "

"I am Robert, if you please, and this is Kose, my

sister.
Youngest of us all," — he bent his curly head and

kissed her;
"Every day we come and wait here till the sun is

setting,
Watching for our father's ship, for mother dear is

fretting.



176 RESCUED

*'Long ago he sailed away out of sight and hearing,
Straight across the bay he went, into sunset steering.
Every day we look for him, and hope for his returning,
Every night my mother keeps the candle for him
burning.

" Summer goes and Winter comes, and Spring returns,
but never

Father's step comes to the gate. Oh! is he gone for-
ever ?

The great grand ship that bore him ofif, think you some
tempest wrecked her 1 "

Tears shone in little Eose's eyes, upturned to her
protector.

Eagerly the bonny boy went on: "Oh, sir, look yon-
der!

In the offing see the sails that east and westward
wander ;

Every hour they come and go, the misty distance
thronging,

While we M'atch and see them fade, with sorrow and
with longing.'^

"Little Eobert! little Kose!'' The stranger's eyes

were glistening,
At his bronzed and bearded face upgazed the children,
listening ;



THE COCKATOOS 177

He knelt upon the yellow sand, and clasped them to
his bosom,

!Robert brave, and little Eose, as bright as any blos-
som.

"Father! Father! Is it you?" The still air rings
with rapture;

All the vanished joy of years the waiting ones recap-
ture !

Finds he welcome wild and sweet, the low-thatched
cottage reaching.

But the ship that into sunset steered upon the rocks
lies bleaching.

THE COCKATOOS

Empty the throne-chair stood; mayhap
The king was taking his royal nap,
For early it was in the afternoon
Of a drowsy day in the month of June.

And the palace doors were open wide

To the soft and dreamful airs outside.

And the blue sky burned with the summer glow,

And the trees cool masses of shade did throw.

The throne-chair stood in a splendid room.
There were velvets in ruby and purple bloom,



178 THE COCKATOOS

Curtains magnificent to see,

And a table draped most sumptuously.

And on the table a cushion lay-
Colored like clouds at the close of day,
And a crown, rich-sparkling with myriad raySj
Shone on the top, in a living blaze.

And nobody spoke and nobody stirred
Except a bird that sat by a bird, —
Two cockatoos on a lofty perch,
Sober and grave as monks in a church.

Gay with the glory of painted plume.
Their bright hues suited the brilliant room;
Green and yellow, and rose and blue.
Scarlet and orange, and jet black, too.

Said one to the other, eying askance
The beautiful fleur-de-lis of France
On the cushion's lustrous edge, set round
In gleaming gold on a violet ground, —

Said one to the other, "Eocco, my dear,
If any thief were to enter here.
He might take crown and cushion away,
And who would be any the wiser, pray ? ^'



THE COCKATOOS 179

Said Rocco, " How stupid, my dear Coquette !
A guard is at every threshold set;
No thief could enter, much less get out,
Without the sentinel's warning shout."

She tossed her head, did the bright Coquette.
"Bocco, my dear, now what will you bet
That the guards are not sleeping this moment as sound
As the king himself, all the palace round?

*"Tis very strange, so it seems to me,
That they leave things open so carelessly;
Really, I think it 's a little absurd
All this should be left to the care of a bird!

"And what is that creaking so light and queer?
Listen a moment. There! Don't you hear?
And what is that moving the curtain behind?
Rocco, my dear, are you deaf and blind ? "

The heavy curtain was pushed away
And a shaggy head, unkempt and gray,
From the costly folds looked doubtful out,
And eagerly everywhere peered about.

And the dull eyes lighted upon the blaze
Of the gorgeous crown with a startled gaze,
And out of the shadow the figure stepped
And softly over the carpet crept.



180 THE COCKATOOS

And nobody spoke and nobody stirred,
And the one bird sat by the other bird,
Both overpowered by their surprise;
They really couldn't believe their eyes!

Swiftly the madman, in fear's despite.
Darted straight to that hill of light;
The frightened birds saw the foolish wretch
His hand to the wondrous thing outstretch.

Then both at once such an uproar raised
That the king himself rushed in, amazed.
Half awake, in his dressing-gown,
And there on the floor lay the sacred crown!

And he caught a glimpse through the portal wide
Of a pair of flying heels outside,
And he shouted in royal wrath, " What ho !
Where are my people, I 'd like to know!"

They ran to the rescue in terror great.
''^Is this the way that you guard my state?
Had it not been for my cockatoos
My very crown I had chanced to lose ! "

They sought in the shrubbery to and fro.
Wherever they thought the thief might go;
They looked through the garden, but all in vain,'
They searched the forest, they scoured the plain.



THE DOUBLE SUNFLOWER 181

They gave it up, for they could not choose.
But oh, the pride of those cockatoos!
If they were admired and petted before,
Now they were utterly spoiled, be sure !

They 'd a special servant on them to wait,
To do their pleasure early and late:
They grew so haughty and proud and grand,
Their fame was spread over all the land.

And when they died it made such a stir!
And their skins were stuffed with spice and myrrh.
And from their perch they still look down,
As on the day when they saved the crown.

THE DOUBLE SUNFLOWER

The sunflowers hung their banners out in the sweet
September weather;

A stately company they stood by the garden fence to-
gether.

And looked out on the shining sea that bright and
brighter grew,

ind slowly bowed theii* golden heads to every wind
that blew.

But the double sunflower bloomed apart, far prouder
than the rest.



182 THE DOUBLE SUNFLOWER

And by his crown's majestic weight he seemed almost

oppressed.
He held himself aloof upon his tall and slender stem,
And gloried in the splendor of his double diadem.

All clothed in bells of lovely blue, a morning-glory

vine
Could find no friendly stick or stalk about which she

might twine;
And prone upon the ground near by, with blossoms

red as fire,
A scarlet runner lay for lack of means to clamber

higher.



'O'



They both perceived the sunflower tall who proudly

stood aside;
Nothing to them was his grand air of majesty and

pride ;
"With one accord they charged at him, and up his stalk

they ran.
And straight to hang their red and blue all over him

began.

Oh, then he was magnificent, all azure, gold, and
flame!

But, woe is me ! an autumn breeze froni out the north-
west came;



IN THE BLACK FOREST ]83

With all their leaves and flowers the vines about him

closely wound,
And with that keen wind's help at once they dragged

him to the ground.

I found him there next morning, his pomp completely

wrecked,
His prostrate form all gorgeously with tattered blooms

bedecked.
"Alas!" I said, "no power on earth your glory can

recall !
Did you not know, dear sunflower, that pride must

have a fall?"

I raised him up and bore him in, and, ere he faded

quite,
In the corner he stood splendid awhile for our delight ;
But his humbler, single brethren, in the garden, every

one.
With shining disks and golden rays stayed gazing at

the sun.

IN THE BLACK FOREST

Up through the great Black Forest,

So wild and wonderful,
We climbed in the autumn afternoon

'Mid the shadows deep and cool.



184 IN THE BLACK FOREST

We climbed to the Grand Duke's castle

That stood on the airy height;
Above the leagues of pine-trees dark

It shone in the yellow light.

We saw how the peasant women

Were toiling along the way,
In open spaces here and there,

That steeped in the sunshine lay.

*

They gathered the autumn harvest —
All toil-worn and weather-browned;

They gathered the roots they had planted in spring
And piled them up on the ground.

We heard the laughter of children,

And merrily down the road
Kan little Max with a rattling cart.

Heaped up with a heavy load.



Upon orange carrots, and beets so red,
And turnips smooth and white,

With leaves of green all packed between,
Sat the little Rosel bright.



*o'



Around the edge of her wee white cap
The wind blew out her curls —



IN THE BLACK FOREST 185

A sweeter face I have never seen
Than this happy little girl's.

A spray of the carrot's foliage fine,

Soft as a feather of green,
Drooped over her head from behind her ear

As proud as the plume of a queen.

Light was his burden to merry Max,

With Rosel perched above.
And he gazed at her on that humble throne

With eyes of pride and love.

With joyful laughter they passed us by,

As up through the forest of pine,
So solemn and still, we made our way

To the castle of Eberstein.

Oh, vast and dim and beautiful

Were the dark woods' shadowy aisles,

And all their silent depths seemed lit
With the children's golden smiles.

Oh, lofty the Grand Duke's castle
That looked o'er the forest gloom;

But better I love to remember
The children's rosy bloom.



186 AN OLD SAW

And sweet is the picture I brought away
From the wild Black Forest shade,

Of proud and happy and merry Max,
And Rosel, the little maid.



AN OLD SAW

A DEAR little maid came skipping out
In the glad new day, with a merry shout;
With dancing feet and flying hair
She sang with joy in the morning air.

^^ Don't sing before hreakfasty you 'II cry before

night ! "
What a croak, to darken the child's delight!
And the stupid old nurse, again and again,
Hepeated the ancient, dull refrain.

The child paused, trying to understand;
But her eyes saw the great world rainbow-spanned:
Her light little feet hardly touched the earth.
And her soul brimmed over with innocent mirth.

"Never mind, — don't listen, sweet little maid!
Make sure of your morning song," I said;
"And if pain must meet you, why, all the more
Be glad of the rapture that came before."



CRADLE SONG 187



CEADLE S0:N'G



In the winged cradle of sleep I lay

My darling gently down;
Kissed and closed are his eyes of gray,

Under his curls' bright crown.



^&^



Where, oh, where, will he fly and float,

In the winged cradle of sleep 1
Whom will he meet in the worlds remote,

While he slumbers soft and deep 1

Warm and sweet as a white blush rose,

His small hand lies in mine,
But I cannot follow him where he goes,

And he gives no word nor sign.

Keep him safe, ye heavenly powers.

In dreamland vast and dim.
Let no ill, through the night's long hours,

Come nigh to trouble him.

Give him back, when the dawn shall break,
With his matchless baby charms.

With his love and his beauty all awake.
Into my happy arms!



188 IklAEJORIE



MAEJOEIE

Marjorie hides in the deep, sweet grass;

Purple its tops bend over;
Softly and warmly the breezes pass,

And bring her the scent of the clover.

Butterflies flit, and the banded bee

Booms in the air above her;
Green and golden lady-bugs three

Marjorie 's nest discover.

Up to the top of the grass so tall
Creep they while Marjorie gazes;

Blows the wind suddenly, — down they fall
Into the disks of the daisies!

Brown-eyed Marjorie! "Who, do you think,

Sings in the sun so loudly ?
Marjorie smiles. '"T is the bobolink,

Caroling gayly and proudly."

Bright-locked Marjorie ! "What floats down
Through the golden air, and lingers

Light on your head as a cloudy crown,
Pink as your rosy fingers'?



KING MIDAS 189

"Apple-blosRoms! " she laughing cries,
"Beautiful boats come sailing
Out of the branches held up to the skies,
Over the orchard railing."

Happy, sweet Marjorie, hidden away,

Birds, butterflies, bees above her;
With flowers and perfumes, and lady-bugs gay;

Everything seems to love her!



KING MIDAS

Heard you, little children.

This wonderful story told
Of the Phrygian king whose fatal touch

Turned everything to gold?

In a great, dim, dreary chamber.

Beneath the palace floor.
He counted his treasures of glittering coin,

And he always longed for more.

When the clouds in the blaze of sunset

Burned flaming fold on fold.
He thought how fine a thing 't would be

Were they but real gold!



190 KING MIDAS

And when his dear little daughter,

The child he loved so well,
Came bringing in from the pleasant fields

The yellow asphodel.

Or buttercups from the meadow,

Or dandelions gay.
King Midas would look at the blossoms sweet,

And she would hear him say, —

"If only the flowers were really
Golden as they appear,
'T were worth your while to gather them,
My little daughter dear ! "

One day in the dim, drear chamber,

As he counted his treasure o'er,
A sunbeam slipped through a chink in the wall

And quivered down to the floor.

^' Would it were gold," he muttered,
" That broad bright yellow bar ! "
Suddenly stood in its mellow light,
A figure bright as a star.

Young and ruddy and glorious.

With face as fresh as the day.
With a winged cap and winged heels,

And eyes both wise and gay.



KING MIDAS 191

"Oh, have your wish, King Midas,"
A heavenly voice begun,
Like all sweet notes of the morning
Braided and blended in one.

"And when to-morrow's sunrise
Wakes you with rosy fire.
All things you touch shall turn to gold,
Even as you desire."

King Midas slept. The morning

At last stole up the sky.
And woke him, full of eagerness

The wondrous spell to try.

And lo! the bed 's fine draperies

Of linen fair and cool,
Of quilted satin and cobweb lace,

And blankets of snowy wool.

All had been changed with the sun's first ray

To marvelous cloth of gold.
That rippled and shimmered as soft as silk

In many a gorgeous fold.

But all this splendor weighed so much

'T was irksome to the king,
And up he sprang to try at once

The touch on everything.



192 KING MIDAS

The heavy tassel that he grasped

Magnificent became,
And hung by the purple curtain rich

Like a glowing mass of flame.

At every step, on every side>

Such splendor followed him.
The very sunbeams seemed to pale,

And morn itself grow dim.

But when he came to the water

For his delicious bath,
And dipped his hand in the surface smooth.

He started in sudden wrath;

For the liquid, light and leaping,

So crystal- bright and clear.
Grew a solid lake of heavy gold,

And the king began to fear!

But out he went to the garden,
So fresh in the morning hour,

And a thousand buds in the balmy night
Had burst into perfect flower.

'T was a world of perfume and color,
Of tender and delicate bloom.

But only the hideous thirst for wealth
In the king's heart found room.



KING MIDAS 193

He passed like a spirit of autumn

Through that fair space of bloom,
And the leaves and the flowers grew yellow

In a dull and senseless gloom.

Back to the lofty palace

Went the glad monarch then,
And sat at his sumptuous breakfast,

Most fortunate of men !

He broke the fine, white wheaten roll,

The light and wholesome bread,
And it turned to a lump of metal rich— »

It had as well been lead!

Again did fear assail the king.

When — what was this he heard ?
The voice of his little daughter dear,

As sweet as a grieving bird.

Sobbing she stood before him,

And a golden rose held she,
And the tears that brimmed her blue, blue eyes

Were pitiful to see.

^* Father! father dearest!

This dreadful thing — oh, see !
Oh, what has happened to all the flowers?
Tell me, what can it be 1 '^



194 KING MIDAS

"Why should you cry, my daughter?
Are not these blossoms of gold
Beautiful, precious, and wonderful,
"With splendor not to be told 1 "

" I hate them, my father !

They 're stiff and hard and dead.

That were so sweet and soft and fair,

And blushed so warm and red."

"Come here," he cried, "my darling,"
And bent, her cheek to kiss,
To comfort her — when — Heavenly Powers !
What fearful thing was this ?

He sank back, shuddering and aghast,
But she stood still as death —

A statue of horrible gleaming gold,
With neither motion nor breath.

The gold tears hardened on her cheek.

The gold rose in her hand.
Even her little sandals changed

To gold, where she did stand.

Then such a tumult of despair

The wretched king possessed,
He wrung his hands, and tore his hair.

And sobbed, and beat his breast.



KING MIDAS 195

Weighed with one look from her sweet eyes
What was the whole world worth? *

Against one touch of her loving lips,
The treasure of all the earth?

Then came that voice, like music,
As fresh as the morning air,
*^*How is it with you, King Midas,
Rich in your answered prayer 1 "

And there, in the sunshine smiling,

Majestic as before.
Ruddy and young and glorious.

The Stranger stood once more.

'^ Take back your gift so terrible !
No blessing, but a curse !
One loving heart more precious is
Than the gold of the universe."



The Stranger listened — a sweeter smile
Kindled his grave, bright eyes.

Glad am I, King Midas,

That you have grown so wise !



at



"Again your wish is granted;
More swiftly than before.
All you have harmed with the fatal touch
You shall again restore."



196 WILD GEESE

He clasped his little daughter —

Oh, joy! — within his arms
She trembled back to her human self,

With all her human charms.

Across her face he saw the life

Beneath his kiss begin,
And steal to the charming dimple deep

Upon her lovely chin.

Again her eyes grew blue and clear,

Again her cheek flushed red;
She locked her arms about his neck,

"My father dear! " she said.

Oh, happy was King Midas,

Against his heart to hold
His treasure of love, more precious

Than a thousand worlds of gold!

WILD GEESE

The wind blows, the sun shines, the birds sing loud.
The blue, blue sky is flecked with fleecy dappled cloud,
Over earth's rejoicing fields the children dance and

sing.
And the frogs pipe in chorus, "It is spring! It is

spring ! "



THE HYLAS 197

The grass comes, the flower laughs where lately lay

the snow,
O'er the breezy hill- top hoarsely calls the crow.
By the flowing river the alder catkins swing.
And the sweet song sparrow cries, "Spring! It is

spring ! "

Hark, what a clamor goes winging through the sky !
Look, children! Listen to the sound so wild and

high !
Like a peal of broken bells, — kling, klang, kling, —
Far and high the wild geese cry, "Spring! It is

spring ! "

Bear the winter ofi" with you, wild geese dear !

Carry all the cold away, far away from here;

Chase the snow into the north, strong of heart and

wing.
While we share the robin's rapture, crying, "Spring!

It is spring ! "



THE HYLAS

In the crimson sunsets of the spring.

Children, have you heard the hylas pipe,

Ere with robin's note the meadows ring.
Ere the silver willow buds are ripe ?



198 THE HYLAS

Long before the swallow dares appear,

When the April weather frees the brooks,

Sweet and high a liquid note yon hear,
Sounding clear at eve from wooded nooks.

'T is the hylas. " What are hylas, pray 1 "


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Online LibraryCelia ThaxterStories and poems for children → online text (page 9 of 12)