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The Leak in the Dike
HE good dame looked from her cottage
At the close of the pleasant day,
And cheerily called to her little son
Outside the door at play:
``Come, Peter! come! I want you to go,
While there is still light to see,
To the hut of the blind old man who lives
Across the dike, for me;
And take these cakes I made for him--
They are hot and smoking yet;
You have time enough to go and come
Before the sun has set.''
Then the good wife turned to her labor,
Humming a simple song,
And thought of her husband working hard
At the sluices all day long;
And set the turf a-blazing,
And brought the coarse black bread:
That he might find a fire at night,
And find the table spread.
And Peter left the brother,
With whom all day he had played,
And the sister who had watched their sports
In the willow's tender shade;
And told them they'd see him back before
They saw a star in sight,
Though he wouldn't be afraid to go
In the very darkest night!
For he was a brave, bright fellow,
With eye and conscience clear;
He could do whatever a boy might do,
And he had not learned to fear.
Why, he wouldn't have robbed a bird's nest,
Nor brought a stork to harm,
Though never a law in Holland
Had stood to stay his arm!
And now with his face all glowing,
And eyes as bright as the day
With the thoughts of his pleasant errand,
He trudged along the way;
And soon his joyous prattle
Made glad a lonesome place--
Alas! if only the blind old man
Could have seen that happy face!
Yet he somehow caught the brightness
Which his voice and presence lent
And he felt the sunshine come and go
As Peter came and went.
And now, as the day was sinking,
And the winds began to rise,
The mother looked from her door again,
Shading her anxious eyes,
And saw the shadows deepen
And birds to their home come back,
But never a sign of Peter
Along the level track.
But she said: ``He will come at morning.
So I need not fret or grieve--
Though it isn't like my boy at all
To stay without my leave.''
But where was the child delaying?
On the homeward way was he,
And across the dike while the sun was up
An hour above the sea.
He was stopping now to gather flowers,
Now listening to the sound,
As the angry waters dashed themselves
Against their narrow bound.
``Ah! well for us,'' said Peter,
``That the gates are good and strong.
And my father tends them carefully,
Or they would not hold you long!
You're a wicked sea,'' said Peter,
``I know why you fret and chafe;
You would like to spoil our lands and homes;
But our sluices keep you safe.''
But hark! through the noise of waters
Comes a low, clear, trickling sound;
And the child's face pales with terror,
And his blossoms drop to the ground.
He is up the bank in a moment,
And, stealing through the sand,
He sees a stream not yet so large
As his slender, childish hand.
'Tis a leak in the dike!--
He is but a boy,
Unused to fearful scenes;
But, young as he is, he has learned to know
The dreadful thing that means.
A leak in the dike!
The stoutest heart
Grows faint that cry to hear,
And the bravest man in all the land
Turns white with mortal fear.
For he knows the smallest leak may grow
To flood in a single night;
And he knows the strength of the cruel sea
When loosed in its angry might.
And the Boy! he has seen the danger
And, shouting a wild alarm,
He forces back the weight of the sea
With the strength of his single arm!
He listens for the joyful sound
Of a footstep passing nigh;
And he lays his ear to the ground, to catch
The answers to his cry.
And he hears the rough winds blowing,
And the waters rise and fall,
But never an answer comes to him
Save the echo of his call.
He sees no hope, no succor,
His feeble voice is lost;
Yet what shall he do but watch and wait
Though he perish at his post!
So faintly calling and crying
Till the sun in under the sea;
Crying and moaning till the stars
Come out for company;
He thinks of his brother and sister,
Asleep in their safe warm bed;
He thinks of his father and mother,
Of himself as dying--and dead;
And of how, when the night is over,
They must come and find him at last;
But he never thinks he can leave the place
Where duty hold him fast.
The good dame in the cottage
Is up and astir with the light,
For the thought of her little Peter
Has been with her all night.
And now she watches the pathway,
As yester-eve she had done;
But what does she see so strange and black
Against the rising sun?
Her neighbors are bearing between them
Something straight to her door;
Her child is coming home, but not
As he ever came before!
``He is dead!'' she cries, ``my darling!''
And the startled father hears,
And comes and looks the way she looks,
And fears the thing she fears;
Till a glad shout from the bearers
Thrills the stricken man and wife--
``Give thanks, for your son has saved our land,
And God has saved his life!''
So, there in the morning sunshine
They knelt about the boy;
And every head was bared and bent
In tearful, reverent joy.
'Tis many a year since then; but still,
When the sea roars like a flood,
The boys are taught what a boy can do
Who is brave and true and good;
For every man in that country
Takes his son by the hand
And tells him of little Peter,
Whose courage saved the land.
They have many a valiant hero,
Remembered through the years;
But never one whose name so oft
Is named with loving tears.
And his deed shall be sung by the cradle,
And told to the child on the knee,
So long as the dikes of Holland
Divide the land from the sea!
E dwelt among "apartments let,"
About five stories high;
A man I thought that none would get,
And very few would try.
A boulder, by a larger stone
Half hidden in the mud,
Fair as a man when only one
Is in the neighborhood.
He lived unknown, and few could tell
When Jacob was not free;
But he has got a wife,--and O!
The difference to me!
When Lovely Woman
HEN lovely woman wants a favor,
And finds, too late, that man won't bend,
What earthly circumstance can save her
From disappointment in the end?
The only way to bring him over,
The last experiment to try,
Whether a husband or a lover,
If he have feeling, is, to cry!
Ballad of the Canal
[Ed. Note: A parody of "Ballad of the Tempest" by James T. Field]
E were crowded in the cabin,
Not a soul had room to sleep;
It was midnight on the waters,
And the banks were very steep.
'Tis a fearful thing when sleeping
To be startled by the shock,
And to hear the rattling trumpet
Thunder, "Coming to a lock!"
So we shuddered there in silence,
For the stoutest berth was shook,
While the wooden gates were opened
And the mate talked with the cook.
And as thus we lay in darkness,
Each one wishing we were there,
"We are through!" the captain shouted,
And he sat upon a chair.
And his little daughter whispered,
Thinking that he ought to know,
"Isn't travelling by canal-boats
Just as safe as it is slow?"
Then he kissed the little maiden,
And with better cheer we spoke,
And we trotted into Pittsburg,
When the morn looked through the smoke.
The Prairie on Fire
HE long grass burned brown
In the summer's fierce heat,
Snaps brittle and dry
'Neath the traveller's feet,
As over the prairie,
Through all the long day,
His white, tent-like wagon
Moves slow on its way.
Safe and dnug with the goods
Are the little ones stowed,
And the big boys trudge on
By the team in the road;
While his sweet, patient wife,
With the babe on her breast,
Sees their new home in fancy,
And longs for its rest.
But hark! in the distance
That dull, trampling tread;
And see how the sky
Has grown suddenly red!
What has lighted the west
At the hour of noon?
It is not the sunset,
it is not the moon!
The horses are rearing
And snorting with fear,
And over the prairie
Come flying the deer
With hot smoking haunches,
And eyes rolling back,
As if the fierce hunter
Were hard on their track.
The mother clasps closer
The babe on her arm,
While the children cling close to her
In wildest alarm;
And the father speaks low
As the red light mounts higher:
"We are lost! we are lost!
'T is the prairie on fire!"
The boys, terror-stricken,
Stand still, all but one:
He sees in a moment
The thing to be done.
He has lighted the grass,
The quick flames leap in the air;
And the pathway before them
Lies blackened and bare.
How the fire-fiend behind
Rushes on in his power;
But nothing is left
For his wrath to devour.
On the scarred, smoking earth
They stand safe, every one,
While the flames in the distance
Sweep harmlessly on.
Then reverently under
The wide sky they kneel,
With spirits too thankful
To speak what they feel;
But the father in silence
Is blessing his boy,
While the mother and children
Are weeping for joy.
UPPOSE, my little lady,
Your doll should break her head,
Could you make it whole by crying
Till your eyes and nose are red?
And would n't it be pleasanter
To treat is as a joke;
And say you're glad "'Twas Dolly's
And not your head that broke?"
Suppose you're dressed for walking,
And the rain comes pouring down,
Will it clear off any sooner
Because you scold and frown?
And wouldn't it be nicer
For you to smile than pout,
And so make sunshine in the house
When there is none without?
Suppose your task, my little man,
Is very hard to get,
Will it make it easier
For you to sit and fret?
And wouldn't it be wiser
Than waiting like a dunce,
To go to work in earnest,
And learn the thing at once?
Suppose that some boys had a horse,
And some a coach and pair,
Will it tire you less by walking
To say, "It is n't fair?"
And would n't it be nobler
To keep your temper sweet,
And in your heart be thankful
You can walk upon your feet?
And suppose the world don't please you,
Nor the way some people do,
Do you think the whole creation
Will be altered just for you?
And is n't it, my boy or girl,
The wisest, bravest plan,
Whatever comes, or does n't come,
To do the best you can?
Figs of Thistles p 245 My Neighbor's House p 248
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