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 . The Lay of the Golden Goose

    LONG ago in a poultry yard
    One dull November morn,
    Beneath a motherly soft wing
    A little goose was born.

    Who straightway peeped out of the shell
    To view the world beyond,
    Longing at once to sally forth
    And paddle on the pond.

    'Oh! be not rash,' her father said,
    A mild Socratic bird;
    Her mother begged her not to stray
    With many a warning word.

    But little goosey was perverse,
    And eagerly did cry,
    I've got a lovely pair of wings,
    Of course I ought to fly.'

    In vain parental cacklings,
    In vain the cold sky's frown,
    Ambitious goosey tried to soar,
    But always tumbled down.

    The farm-yard jeered at her attempts,
    The peacocks screamed, 'Oh fie!
    You're only a domestic goose,
    So don't pretend to fly.'

    Great cock-a-doodle from his perch
    Crowed daily loud and clear,
    'Stay in the puddle, foolish bird,
    That is your proper sphere.'

    The ducks and hens said, one and all,
    In gossip by the pool,
    'Our children never play such pranks;
    My dear, that fowl's a fool.'

    The owls came out and flew about,
    Hooting above the rest,
    'No useful egg was ever hatched
    From trancendental nest.'

    Good little goslings at their play
    And well-conducted chicks
    Were taught to think poor goosey's flights
    Were naughty, ill-bred tricks.

    They were content to swim and scratch,
    And not at all inclinded
    For any wild-goose chase in search
    Of something undefined.

    Hard times she had as one may guess,
    That young aspiring bird,
    Who still from every fall arose
    Saddened but undeterred.

    She knew she was not nightingale,
    Yet spite of much abuse,
    She longed to help and cheer the world,
    Although a plain gray goose.

    She could not sing, she could not fly,
    Nor even walk with grace,
    And all the farm-yard had declared
    A puddle was her place.

    But something stronger than herself
    Would cry, 'Go on, go on!'
    Remember, though an humble fowl,
    You're cousin to a swan.'

    So up and down poor goosey went,
    A busy, hopeful bird.
    Searched many wide unfruitful fields,
    And many waters stirred.

    At length she came unto a stream
    Most fertile of all Niles,
    Where tuneful birds might soar and sing
    Among the leafy isles.

    Here did she build a little nest
    Beside the waters still,
    Where the parental goose could rest
    Unvexed by any bill.

    And here she paused to smooth her plumes,
    Ruffled by many plagues;
    When suddenly arose the cry,
    'This goose lays golden eggs.'

    At once the farm-yard was agog;
    The ducks began to quack;
    Prim Guinea fowls relenting called,
    'Come back, come back, come back.'

    Great chanticleer was pleased to give
    A patronizing crow,
    And the contemptuous biddies chuckled,
    'I wish my chicks did so.'

    The peacocks spread their shining tails,
    And cried in accents soft,
    'We want to know you, gifted one,
    Come up and sit aloft.'

    Wise owls awoke and gravely said,
    With proudly swelling breasts,
    'Rare birds have always been evoked
    From transcendental nests!'

    News-hunting turkeys from afar
    Now ran with all thin legs
    To gobble facts and fictions of
    The goose with golden eggs.

    But best of all the little fowls
    Still playing on the shore,
    Soft downy chicks and goslings gay,
    Chirped out, 'Dear Goose, lay more.'

    But goosey all these weary years
    Had toiled like any ant,
    And wearied out she now replied,
    'My little dears, I can't.

    'When I was starving, half this corn
    Had been of vital use,
    Now I am surfeited with food
    Like any Strasbourg goose.'

    So to escape too many friends,
    Without uncivil strife,
    She ran to the Atlantic pond
    And paddled for her life.

    Soon up among the grand old Alps
    She found two blessed things:
    The health she had so nearly lost,
    And rest for weary limbs.

    But still across the briny deep
    Couched in most friendly words,
    Came prayers for letters, tales, or verse,
    From literary birds.

    Whereat the renovated fowl
    With grateful thanks profuse,
    Took from her wing a quill and wrote
    This lay of a Golden Goose.

    Louisa May Alcott

 . Our Little Ghost

    OFT, in the silence of the night,
    When the lonely moon rides high,
    When wintry winds are whistling,
    And we hear the owl's shrill cry,
    In the quiet, dusky chamber,
    By the flickering firelight,
    Rising up between two sleepers,
    Comes a spirit all in white.

    A winsome little ghost it is,
    Rosy-cheeked, and bright of eye;
    With yellow curls all breaking loose
    From the small cap pushed awry.
    Up it climbs among the pillows,
    For the "big dark" brings no dread,
    And a baby's boundless fancy
    Makes a kingdom of a bed.

    A fearless little ghost it is;
    Safe the night seems as the day;
    The moon is but a gentle face,
    And the sighing winds are gay.
    The solitude is full of friends,
    And the hour brings no regrets;
    For, in this happy little soul,
    Shines a sun that never sets.

    A merry little ghost it is,
    Dancing gayly by itself,
    On the flowery counterpane,
    Like a tricksy household elf;
    Nodding to the fitful shadows,
    As they flicker on the wall;
    Talking to familiar pictures,
    Mimicking the owl's shrill call.

    A thoughtful little ghost if is;
    And, when lonely gambols tire,
    With chubby hands on chubby knees,
    It sits winking at the fire.
    Fancies innocent and lovely
    Shine before those baby-eyes, --
    Endless fields of dandelions,
    Brooks, and birds, and butterflies.

    A loving little ghost it is:
    When crept into its nest,
    Its hand on father's shoulder laid,
    Its head on mother's breast,
    It watches each familiar face,
    With a tranquil, trusting eye;
    And, like a sleepy little bird,
    Sings its own soft lullaby.

    Then those who feigned to sleep before,
    Lest baby play till dawn,
    Wake and watch their folded flower --
    Little rose without a thorn.
    And, in the silence of the night,
    The hearts that love it most
    Pray tenderly above its sleep,
    "God bless our little ghost!"

    Louisa May Alcott

 . To the First Robin

    WELCOME, welcome, little stranger,
    Fear no harm, and fear no danger;
    We are glad to see you here,
    For you sing "Sweet Spring is near."
    Now the white snow melts away;
    Now the flowers blossom gay:
    Come dear bird and build your nest,
    For we love our robin best.

    Louisa May Alcott

 . My Doves

    OPPOSITE my chamber window,
    On the sunny roof, at play,
    High above the city's tumult,
    Flocks of doves sit day by day.
    Shining necks and snowy bosoms,
    Little rosy, tripping feet,
    Twinkling eyes and fluttering wings,
    Cooing voices, low and sweet,--
    Graceful games and friendly meetings,
    Do I daily watch and see.
    For these happy little neighbors
    Always seem at peace to be.
    On my window-ledge, to lure them,
    Crumbs of bread I often strew,
    And, behind the curtain hiding,
    Watch them flutter to and fro.
    Soon they cease to fear the giver,
    Quick are they to feel my love,
    And my alms are freely taken
    By the shyest little dove.
    In soft flight, they circle downward,
    Peep in through the window-pane;
    Stretch their gleaming necks to greet me,
    Peck and coo, and come again.
    Faithful little friends and neighbors,
    For no wintry wind or rain,
    Household cares or airy pastimes,
    Can my loving birds restrain.
    Other friends forget, or linger,
    But each day I surely know
    That my doves will come and leave here
    Little footprints in the snow.
    So, they teach me the sweet lesson,
    That the humblest may give
    Help and hope, and in so doing,
    Learn the truth by which we live;
    For the heart that freely scatters
    Simple charities and loves,
    Lures home content, and joy, and peace,
    Like a soft-winged flock of doves.

    Louisa May Alcott

 . Lullaby

    NOW the day is done,
    Now the shepherd sun
    Drives his white flocks from the sky;
    Now the flowers rest
    On their mother's breast,
    Hushed by her low lullaby.

    Now the glowworms glance,
    Now the fireflies dance,
    Under fern-boughs green and high;
    And the western breeze
    To the forest trees
    Chants a tuneful lullaby.

    Now 'mid shadows deep
    Falls blessed sleep,
    Like dew from the summer sky;
    And the whole earth dreams,
    In the moon's soft beams,
    While night breathes a lullaby.

    Now, birdlings, rest,
    In your wind-rocked nest,
    Unscared by the owl's shrill cry;
    For with folded wings
    Little Brier swings,
    And singeth your lullaby.

    Louisa May Alcott

 . Thoreau's Flute

    WE SIGHING said, "Our Pan is dead;
    His pipe hangs mute beside the river
    Around it wistful sunbeams quiver,
    But Music's airy voice is fled.
    Spring mourns as for untimely frost;
    The bluebird chants a requiem;
    The willow-blossom waits for him;
    The Genius of the wood is lost."

    Then from the flute, untouched by hands,
    There came a low, harmonious breath:
    "For such as he there is no death;
    His life the eternal life commands;
    Above man's aims his nature rose.
    The wisdom of a just content
    Made one small spot a continent
    And turned to poetry life's prose.

    "Haunting the hills, the stream, the wild,
    Swallow and aster, lake and pine,
    To him grew human or divine,
    Fit mates for this large-hearted child.
    Such homage Nature ne'er forgets,
    And yearly on the coverlid
    'Neath which her darling lieth hid
    Will write his name in violets.

    "To him no vain regrets belong
    Whose soul, that finer instrument,
    Gave to the world no poor lament,
    But wood-notes ever sweet and strong.
    O lonely friend! he still will be
    A potent presence, though unseen,
    Steadfast, sagacious, and serene;
    Seek not for him -- he is with thee."

    Louisa May Alcott

 . Transfiguration

    MYSTERIOUS death! who in a single hour
    Life's gold can so refine
    And by thy art divine
    Change mortal weakness to immortal power!

    Bending beneath the weight of eighty years
    Spent with the noble strife
    of a victorious life
    We watched her fading heavenward, through our tears.

    But ere the sense of loss our hearts had wrung
    A miracle was wrought;
    And swift as happy thought
    She lived again -- brave, beautiful, and young.

    Age, pain, and sorrow dropped the veils they wore
    And showed the tender eyes
    Of angels in disguise,
    Whose discipline so patiently she bore.

    The past years brought their harvest rich and fair;
    While memory and love,
    Together, fondly wove
    A golden garland for the silver hair.

    How could we mourn like those who are bereft,
    When every pang of grief
    found balm for its relief
    In counting up the treasures she had left?--

    Faith that withstood the shocks of toil and time;
    Hope that defied despair;
    Patience that conquered care;
    And loyalty, whose courage was sublime;

    The great deep heart that was a home for all--
    Just, eloquent, and strong
    In protest against wrong;
    Wide charity, that knew no sin, no fall;

    The spartan spirit that made life so grand,
    Mating poor daily needs
    With high, heroic deeds,
    That wrested happiness from Fate's hard hand.

    We thought to weep, but sing for joy instead,
    Full of the grateful peace
    That follows her release;
    For nothing but the weary dust lies dead.

    Oh, noble woman! never more a queen
    Than in the laying down
    Of sceptre and of crown
    To win a greater kingdom, yet unseen;

    Teaching us how to seek the highest goal,
    To earn the true success --
    To live, to love, to bless --
    And make death proud to take a royal soul.

    Louisa May Alcott

 . To Papa

    IN HIGH Olympus' sacred shade
    A gift Minerva wrought
    For her beloved philosopher
    Immersed in deepest thought.

    A shield to guard his aged breast
    With its enchanted mesh
    When he his nectar and ambrosia took
    To strengthen and refresh.

    Long may he live to use the life
    The hidden goddess gave,
    To keep unspotted to the end
    The gentle, just, and brave.

    Louisa May Alcott      December 1887

 . A Little Grey Curl

    A LITTLE grey curl from my father's head
    I find unburned on the hearth,
    And give it a place in my diary here,
    With a feeling half sadness, half mirth.
    For the long white locks are our special pride,
    Though he smiles at his daughter's praise;
    But, oh, they have grown each year more thin,
    Till they are now but a silvery haze.

    That wise old head! (though it does grow bald
    With the knocks hard fortune may give)
    Has a store of faith and hope and trust,
    Which have taught him how to live.
    Though the hat be old, there's a face below
    Which telleth to those who look
    The history of a good man's life,
    And it cheers like a blessed book.

    A peddler of jewels, of clocks, and of books,
    Many a year of his wandering youth;
    A peddler still, with a far richer pack,
    His wares are wisdom and love and truth.
    But now, as then, few purchase or pause,
    For he cannot learn the tricks of trade;
    Little silver he wins, but that which time
    Is sprinkling thick on his meek old head.

    But there'll come a day when the busy world,
    Grown sick with its folly and pride,
    Will remember the mild-faced peddler then
    Whom it rudely had set aside;
    Will remember the wares he offered it once
    And will seek to find him again,
    Eager to purchase truth, wisdom, and love,
    But, oh, it will seek him in vain.

    It will find but his footsteps left behind
    Along the byways of life,
    Where he patiently walked, striving the while
    To quiet its tumult and strife.
    But the peddling pilgrim has laid down his pack
    And gone with his earnings away;
    How small will they seem, remembering the debt
    Which the world too late would repay.

    God bless the dear head! and crown it with years
    Untroubled and calmly serene;
    That the autumn of life more golden may be
    For the heats and the storms that have been.
    My heritage none can ever dispute,
    My fortune will bring neither strife nor care;
    'Tis an honest name, 'tis a beautiful life,
    And the silver lock of my father's hair.

    Louisa May Alcott

 . A. B. A.

    [Written about her father --Ed.]

    LIKE Bunyan's pilgrim with his pack,
    Forth went the dreaming youth
    To seek, to find, and make his own
    Wisdom, virtue, and truth.
    Life was his book, and patiently
    He studied each hard page;
    By turns reformer, outcast, priest,
    Philosopher and sage.

    Christ was his Master, and he made
    His life a gospel sweet;
    Plato and Pythagoras in him
    Found a disciple meet.
    The noblest and best his friends,
    Faithful and fond, though few;
    Eager to listen, learn, and pay
    The love and honor due.

    Power and place, silver and gold,
    He neither asked nor sought;
    Only to serve his fellowmen,
    With heart and word and thought.
    A pilgrim still, but in his pack
    No sins to frighten or oppress;
    But wisdom, morals, piety,
    To teach, to warn and bless.

    The world passed by, nor cared to take
    The treasure he could give;
    Apart he sat, content to wait
    And beautifully live;
    Unsaddened by long, lonely years
    Of want, neglect, and wrong,
    His soul to him a kingdom was,
    Steadfast, serene, and strong.

    Magnanimous and pure his life,
    Tranquil its happy end;
    Patience and peace his handmaids were,
    Death an immortal friend.
    For him no monuments need rise,
    No laurels make his pall;
    The mem'ry of the good and wise
    Outshines, outlives them all.

    Louisa May Alcott


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