I know not what were my replies—
I thought: dost Thou, O God,
Need ever thy poor children’s eyes,
To ease thee of thy load?
They find not Thee in evil case,
But, raised in sorrow wild,
Bring down from visiting thy face
The calmness of a child.
Thou art the depth of Heaven above—
The springing well in her;
Not Father only in thy love,
But daily minister.
And this is how the comfort slid
From her to me the while,—
It was thy present face that did
Smile on me from her smile.
I have an elfish maiden child;
She is not two years old;
Through windy locks her eyes gleam wild,
With glances shy and bold.
Like little imps, her tiny hands
Dart out and push and take;
Chide her—a trembling thing she stands,
And like two leaves they shake.
But to her mind a minute gone
Is like a year ago;
So when you lift your eyes anon,
They’re at it, to and fro.
Sometimes, though not oppressed with thought,
She has her sleepless fits;
Then to my room in blanket brought,
In round-backed chair she sits;
Where, if by chance in graver mood,
A hermit she appears,
Seated in cave of ancient wood,
Grown very still with years.
Then suddenly the pope she is,
A playful one, I know;
For up and down, now that, now this,
Her feet like plash-mill go.
Why like the pope? She’s at it yet,
Her knee-joints flail-like go:
Unthinking man! it is to let
Her mother kiss each toe.
But if I turn away and write,
Then sudden look around,
I almost tremble; tall and white
She stands upon the ground.
In long night-gown, a tiny ghost,
She stands unmoving there;
Or if she moves, my wits were lost
To meet her on the stair!
O Elfie, make no haste to lose
Thy lack of conscious sense;
Thou hast the best gift I could choose,
A God-like confidence.
My little child receives my gift,
A simple piece of bread;
But to her mouth she doth not lift
The love in bread conveyed,
Till on my lips, unerring, swift,
The morsel first is laid.
This is her grace before her food,
This her libation poured;
Uplift, like offering Aaron good
Heaved up unto the Lord;
More riches in the thanks than could
A thousand gifts afford!
My Father, every gift of thine,
Teach me to lift to Thee;
Not else know I the love divine,
With which it comes to me;
Not else the tenfold gift is mine
Of taking thankfully.
Yea, all my being I would lift,
An offering of me;
Then only truly mine the gift,
When so received by Thee;
Then shall I go, rejoicing, swift,
Through thine Eternity.