If I could teach the wandering air
To bring no sounds that were not sweet,
Could teach the earth that only fair
Untrodden flower deserved your feet:
Would I not tear the secret scroll
Where all your griefs lie closely curled,
And give your little hand control
Of all the joys of all the world?
But ah! I have no skill to raise
The palace, teach the hedge to grow;
The common airs blow through your days,
By common ways your dear feet go.
And you must twine of common flowers
The wreath that happy women wear,
And bear in desolate darkened hours
The common griefs that all men bear.
The pinions of my love I fold
Your little shoulders close about:
Ah—could my love keep out the cold
And shut the creeping sorrows out!
Rough paths will tire your darling feet,
Gray skies will weep your tears above,
While round you still, in torment, beat
The impotent wings of mother-love.
To A child.
The fairies have been busy while you slept;
They have been laughing where the sad rain wept,
They have taught Beauty to the ignorant flowers,
Set tasks of hope to weary wind-torn bowers,
And heard the lessons learned in school-rooms cold
By seedling snapdragon and marigold.
At dawn, while still you slept, I grew aware
How good the fairies are, how many and fair.
The fairy whose delightful gown is red
Across a corner of our garden sped,
And, where her flying raiment fluttered past,
Its roseate reflection still is cast:
Red poppies by the rhododendron’s side,
Paeonies gorgeous in their summer pride,
And red may-bushes by the old red wall
Shower down their crimson petals over all.
Then she whose gown is gold, and gold her hair,
Swept down the golden steep straight sunbeam-stair,
She lit the tulip-lamps, she lit the torch
Of hollyhock beside the cottage porch.
She dressed the honeysuckle in fringe of gold,
She gave the king-cups fairy wealth to hold,
She kissed St. John’s wort till it opened wide,
She set the yarrow by the river side.
Then came the lady all whose robes are white:
She made the pale buds blossom in delight,
Set silver stars upon the jasmine’s hair,
And gave the stream white lily-buds to wear.
She painted lilies white, and pearl-white phlox,
White poppies, passion-flowers and gray-leaved stocks.
Her pure kind touch redeemed the most forlorn,
And even the vile petunia smiled, new-born.
The dearest fairy of all—green is her gown—
She kissed the plane-trees in the tiresome town,
She smoothed the pastures and the lawn’s pale sheen,
She decked the boughs with hangings fresh and green,
She showed each flower the one and only way
Its beauty of shape and colour to display;
She taught the world to be a Paradise
Of changing leaf and blade, for tired eyes.