Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, SUNBEAM AND SHADOW, by WILLIAM ALLEN BUTLER

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SUNBEAM AND SHADOW, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Sunbeam was a lovely child
Last Line: Like two fair flowers together, and so the story ends.
Subject(s): Change; Children; Cousins; Forgiveness; Good; Rudeness; Childhood; Clemency; Bad Manners


SUNBEAM was a lovely child, her face was bright as day,
Smiles sparkled in her clear blue eyes and in her dimples lay;
Her hands were always ready in every task to aid,
Or join the merry circle where happy children played;
Her little feet through all the house went pattering along,
With music in her ringing laugh and in her joyous song;
And every one who heard her would bless the child and say,
"There goes our precious Sunbeam, so gentle, good, and gay."


A little cousin Sunbeam had and Shadow was her name,
Her years the same as Sunbeam's but her looks were not the same;
She wore a scowl upon her brow, I'm sure I don't know why,
And a tear was always standing in the corner of each eye;
Her cheeks were often black with dirt, except where through the black
The trickling tears made two straight lines just like a railroad track;
No sunny smile would ever play her little lips about,
For her mouth was screwed and twisted into an angry pout;
Her hands and nails were very like a baby vulture's claws,
And apt to tear and scratch, as a wild-cat's ugly paws;
Her feet went scuffling round the house when work was to be done,
But led her into mischief as fast as she could run.


To spend a week with Sunbeam once little Shadow went,
Her clothes all washed and folded in a new trunk were sent;
The railroad tracks scrubbed from her cheeks were there no longer seen,
The bird claws trimmed, and off she went, looking for once quite clean.
Sweet Sunbeam, with a happy smile, stood waiting at the door,
But Shadow pushed right past her—threw her bonnet on the floor,
And never said "Good-morning," or gave Sunbeam a kiss—
Now did you ever hear of so rude a girl as this?
Then Sunbeam, greatly puzzled, picked the bonnet up herself,
And went and laid it carefully upon a closet shelf,
And running back to Shadow said, gently, "Come with me
To see my nice new tea-set and you shall make the tea,
And we will have a party, dear Shadow, come and play—"
But Shadow scowled and pouted, and jerked herself away;
Then Sunbeam caught her in her arms and said, "I think you might,"
While Shadow screamed, "You hurt me—what makes you squeeze so tight?"
Then Sunbeam cried, "Excuse me, and now, dear Shadow, please,
Just put your arms round me and show me how to squeeze."
But Shadow rudely pushed her, and said, "I won't—go 'way!"
So Sunbeam left her standing and went alone to play,
And Shadow by and by came in and in the corner sat,
As though she loved the dark, like a blinking owl or bat.


Just then an organ in the street set up a lively air.
Both children to the window ran and climbed upon a chair.
Then Sunbeam said, "Now, Shadow, I'll put my arm round you,
The window is wide open and you might tumble through,"
But Shadow twitched herself away, and oh, how sad to tell!
She slipped and lost her balance, and from the window fell.
Sunbeam, as quick as lightning, ran down the steps and found
Poor little Shadow lying quite senseless on the ground.
The organ-grinder brought her in and laid her on the bed,
While Sunbeam placed the pillow about her aching head,
Then ran for nurse and mother to bind the bruises up,
And brought her cool spring-water in her own silver cup.
Long hours poor Shadow lay without the strength to speak.
At last she raised herself, kissed Sunbeam on the cheek,
And said, "Oh, dearest Sunbeam, I've been so rude and wild,
But if you can forgive me I will be a better child."
And did Sunbeam forgive her? Oh, yes, she did indeed,
And gently sought the wayward child in better ways to lead,
To keep her heart and hands from angry temper free,
To love the loving Saviour and seek like Him to be.
So Shadow soon grew better, the dark scowl left her face,
And, like sunshine after rain, sweet smiles came in its place,
And she learned to love dear Sunbeam with all her happy heart,
Till they grew so much alike they could scarce be told apart.


So when her visit ended and Shadow was quite well,
She went to her own home and rang the front-door bell.
The nurse came running down the stairs and said, "Oh, dear! Oh, dear!
That hateful Shadow has come back, I'm sorry she is here."
But as she opened wide the door, what little girl was this
Who sweetly spoke and smiled and was ready with a kiss?
"Can this be Shadow, really, who is standing at the door;
She never had a happy face or a pleasant word before?"
"Oh, yes, I'am really Shadow—that is my name," said she,
"But not the child that once I was, as all the house shall see."
So she gayly tripped up-stairs and they hardly knew her there,
Her voice had grown so gentle, her face had grown so fair.
And from that time she daily grew to be more sweet and mild,
Till every one rejoiced in heart to see so good a child.
And she and little Sunbeam grew up the best of friends,
Like two fair flowers together, and so the story ends.

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