Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE GOOSE-GIRL; A TALE OF THE YEAR 2099, by ELIZA KEARY

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THE GOOSE-GIRL; A TALE OF THE YEAR 2099, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: The little goose-girl came singing
Last Line: Here, the end of my rhyme.

THE little goose-girl came singing
Along the fields, "Sweet May, Oh! the long sweet day."
That was her song.
Bringing about her, floating about, in and out through the long
Fair tresses of her hair,
Oh! a thousand, thousand idlenesses,
Spreading away on May's breath everywhere.
"Idleness, sweet idleness."

But this was a time,
Two thousand and ninety-nine,
When singing of idleness even in spring,
Or drinking wind-wine,
Or looking up into the blue heaven, was counted a crime.
A time harsh not sublime;
One terrible sort of school-hour all the year through,

When every one had to do something, and do it by rule.
Why, even the babies could calculate
Two and two at the least, mentally, without a slate,
Each calling itself an aggregate
Of molecules.
It was always school, schools all over
The world as far as the sky could cover
It, dry land and sea.

High priests said,
"Let matter be Z,
Thoroughly calculated and tried,
To work our problems with, before all eyes;
Anything beside that might prove a dangerous guide,
Xs or Ys, unknown quantities,
We hesitate not at once to designate
Fit only now and for ever to be laid aside."
So you see,
Everything was made as plain as could be,
Not the ghost of a doubt even left to roam about free;
Everybody's concern
Being just to learn, learn, learn --
In one way -- but only in one way.
Where then did the little goose-girl come from that day?
I don't know.

Though, isn't there hard by
A place tender and sunny,
We can feel slid between
Our seen and unseen,
And whose shadows we trace on the earth's face
Now and then dimly? Well, she
Was as ignorant as she could ignorant be,
And the world wasn't school to her
Who came singing,
"Idleness, sweet idleness," up to the very feet
Of the professors' chairs,
And of the thousand thousand pupils sitting round upon theirs.
Who all up sprung,
At the sound of the words she sang,
With "No, no, no, no; no,
There are no sweets in May,
None in the weary day.
What foolish thing is this, singing of idleness in spring?"

"Oh! sunny spring,"
Still sang the little goose-girl, wondering
As she was passing.
But suddenly stayed for a moment, basking
In the broad light, with wide eyes asking,
What "nay" could mean to the soft, warm day?
And as she stayed,
There strayed out from her
May breaths, wandering all the school over.
But now the hard eyes move her,
And her lips quiver,
As the sweet notes shiver
Between them, and die.
So her singing ceases: she
Looking up crying, "Why,
Is my May not sweet?
Is the wide sky fair?
Are the free winds fleet?
Are the feet of the spring not rare,
That tread flowers out of the soil?
Oh! long hours not for toil,
But for wondering and singing."

"No, no, no, no," these reply,
"Silly fancies of flowers and skies;
All these things we know,
There is nothing to wonder at, sing,
Love or fear.
Is not everything simple and clear,
And common, and near us, and weary?
So, pass by idle dreaming,
And you if you would like to know
Being from seeming,
Come into the schools and study."

"Still to sing sometimes when I have the will,
And be idle and ponder,"
Said the goose-girl, "and look up to heaven and wonder."
"What! squander truth's time
In dreams of the unknown sublime?
No." "Then ignorant always," said she,
I must be;" and went on her way,
"Sweet May, sad May."
Hanging her head,
Till "The mills of the gods grind slowly," she said,
"But they grind exceeding small;
Let be, I will sit by the mills of the gods and watch the slow atoms fall."
So patient and still, through long, patient hours,
As she laid her heart low in the hearts of the flowers;
Through clouds and through shine,
With smiles and with tears,
Through long hours, through sweet years,
O years -- for a year was only one school-hour in
Two thousand and ninety-nine.

And see,
Who are these that come creeping
Out from the school? Long ago,
When idlenesses out of her tresses strayed the school over;

Some slept of the learners, some played.
These crept out to wonder and sing,
And look for her yonder,
Away up the hills amongst the gods' mills --
And now
"Is it this way?" they say,
Bowing low;
"O wise, by the heaven in thine eyes,
Teach, we will learn of thee.
Is it No, is it Yes,
Labour or idleness?"
She, answering meekly, "This --
Neither No, nor Yes,
But, come into God and see."

O the deeps we can feel; O the heights we must climb;
O slow gentle hours of the golden time --
Here, the end of my rhyme.

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