Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE FAIRY OF THE DELL, by ALICE CARY



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THE FAIRY OF THE DELL, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: The house lay snug as a robin's nest
Last Line: "nor sighed for her lad that was lost, ""ah me!"
Variant Title(s): Selfish Sorrow
Subject(s): Grief; Sorrow; Sadness


THE house lay snug as a robin's nest
Beneath its sheltering tree,
And a field of flowers was toward the west,
And toward the east the sea,
Where a belt of weedy and wet black sand
Was always pushing in to the land,

And with her face away from the sun
And toward the sea so wild,
The grandam sat, and spun and spun,
And never heeded the child,
So wistfully waiting beside her chair,
More than she heeded the bird of the air.

Fret and fret, and spin and spin,
With her face the way of the sea:
And whether the tide were out or in,
A-sighing, "Woe is me!"
In spite of the waiting and wistful eyes
Pleading so sweetly against the sighs.

And spin, spin, and fret, fret,
And at last the day was done,
And the light of the fire went out and met
The light o' the setting sun.
"It will be a storm night -- ah me!"
Sighed the grandam, looking at the sea.

"Oh, no, it is n't a-going to rain!"
Cries the dove-eyed little girl,
Pressing her cheek to the window-pane
And pulling her hair out of curl.
But the grandam answered with a sigh,
Just as she answered the cricket's cry,
"If it rains, let it rain; we shall not drown!"
Says the child, so glad and gay;
"The leaves of the aspen are blowing down;
A sign of fair weather, they say!"
And the grandam moaned, as if the sea
Were beating her life out, "Woe is me!"

The heart of the dove-eyed little girl
Began in her throat to rise,
And she says, pulling golden curl upon curl
All over her face and her eyes,
"I wish we were out of sight of the sea!"
And the grandam answered, "Woe is me!"

The sun in a sudden darkness slid,
The winds began to plain,
And all the flowery field was hid
With the cold gray mist and the rain.
Then knelt the child on the hearth so low,
And blew the embers all aglow.

On one small hand so lily white
She propped her golden head,
And lying along the rosy light
She took her book and read:
And the grandam heard her laughter low,
As she rocked in the shadows to and fro.

At length she put her spectacles on
And drew the book to her knee:
"And does it tell," she said, "about John,
My lad, who was lost at sea?"
"Why, no," says the child, turning face about,
"'T is a fairy tale: shall I read it out?"

The grandam lowlier bent upon
The page as it lay on her knee:
"No, not if it does n't tell about John,"
She says, "who was lost at sea."
And the little girl, with a saddened face,
Shut her hair in the leaves to keep the place.

And climbing up and over the chair,
The way that her sweet heart led,
She put one arm, so round and fair,
Like a crown, on the old gray head.
"So, child," says the grandam -- keeping on
With her thoughts -- "your book doesn't tell about John?"

"No, ma'am, it tells of a fairy old
Who lived in a daffodil bell,
And who had a heart so hard and cold
That she kept the dews to sell;
And when a butterfly wanted a drink,
How much did she ask him, do you think?"

"O foolish child, I cannot tell,
May be a crown, or so."
"But the fairy lived in a daffodil bell,
And couldn't hoard crowns, you know!"
And the grandam answered -- her thought joined on
To the old thought -- "Not a word about John?"

"But grandam" -- "Nay, for pity's sake
Don't vex me about your crown,
But say if the ribs of a ship should break
And the ship's crew all go down
Of a night like this, how long it would take
For a strong-limbed lad to drown!"

"But, grandam," -- Nay, have done," she said,
"With your fairy and her crown!
Besides, your arm upon my head
Is heavy; get you down!"
"O ma'am, I'm so sorry to give you a pain!"
And the child kissed the wrinkled face time and again.

And then she told the story through
Of the fairy of the dell,
Who sold God's blessed gift of the dew
When it wasn't hers to sell,
And who shut the sweet light all away
With her thick black wings, and pined all day.

And how at last God struck her blind.
The grandam wiped a tear,
And then she said, "I shouldn't mind
If you read to me now, my dear!"
And the little girl, with a wondering look,
Slipped her golden hair from the leaves of the book.

As the grandam pulled her down to her knee,
And pressed her close in her arm,
And kissing her, said, "Run out and see
If there isn't a lull in the storm!
I think the moon, or at least some star,
Must shine, and the wind grows faint and far."

Next day again the grandam spun,
And oh, how sweet were the hours!
For she sat at the window toward the sun,
And next the field of flowers,
And never looked at the long gray sea,
Nor sighed for her lad that was lost, "Ah me!"





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