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Bliss Carman, et al., eds. The World’s Best Poetry. 1904.

Poems of Fancy: II. Fairies: Elves: Sprites

Garden Fairies

Philip Bourke Marston (1850–1887)

KEEN was the air, the sky was very light,

Soft with shed snow my garden was, and white,

And, walking there, I heard upon the night

Sudden sound of little voices,

Just the prettiest of noises.

It was the strangest, subtlest, sweetest sound,

It seemed above me, seemed upon the ground,

Then swiftly seemed to eddy round and round,

Till I said: “To-night the air is

Surely full of garden fairies.”

And all at once it seemed I grew aware

That little, shining presences were there,—

White shapes and red shapes danced upon the air;

Then a peal of silver laughter,

And such singing followed after

As none of you, I think, have heard.

More soft it was than call of any bird,

Note after note, exquisitely deferred,

Soft as dew-drops when they settle

In a fair flower’s open petal.

“What are these fairies?” to myself I said;

For answer, then, as from a garden’s bed,

On the cold air a sudden scent was shed,—

Scent of lilies, scent of roses,

Scent of Summer’s sweetest posies.

And said a small, sweet voice within my ear:

“We flowers, that sleep through winter, once a year

Are by our flower queen sent to visit here,

That this fact may duly flout us,—

Gardens can look fair without us.

“A very little time we have to play,

Then must we go, oh, very far away,

And sleep again for many a long, long day,

Till the glad birds sing above us,

And the warm sun comes to love us.

“Hark what the roses sing now, as we go;”

Then very sweet and soft, and very low,—

A dream of sound across the garden snow,—

Came the chime of roses singing

To the lily-bell’s faint ringing.

“Softly sinking through the snow,

To our winter rest we go,

Underneath the snow to house

Till the birds be in the boughs,

And the boughs with leaves be fair,

And the sun shine everywhere.

“Softly through the snow we settle,

Little snow-drops press each petal.

Oh, the snow is kind and white,—

Soft it is, and very light;

Soon we shall be where no light is,—

But where sleep is, and where night is,—

Sleep of every wind unshaken,

Till our Summer bids us waken.”

Then toward some far-off goal that singing drew;

Then altogether ceased; more steely blue

The blue stars shone; but in my spirit grew

Hope of Summer, love of Roses,

Certainty that Sorrow closes.