Here I dance in a dress like flames,
And laugh to think of my comical names.
Hoppetty hop, with nimble legs!
Some folks call me Bacon and Eggs!
While other people, it’s really true,
Tell me I’m Cuckoo’s Stockings too!
Over the hill I skip and prance;
I’m Lady’s Slipper, and so I dance,
Not like a lady, grand and proud,
But to the grasshoppers’ chirping loud.
My pods are shaped like a dicky’s toes:
That is what Bird’s-Foot Trefoil shows;
This is my name which grown-ups use,
But children may call me what they choose.
Here I dance in a dress like flames,
Oh, please, little children, take note of my name:
To call me a thistle is really a shame:
I’m harmless old Knapweed, who grows on the chalk,
I never will prick you when out for your walk.
Yet I should be sorry, yes, sorry indeed,
To cut your small fingers and cause them to bleed;
So bid me Good Morning when out for your walk,
And mind how you pull at my very tough stalk.
Among the harebells and the grass,
The grass all feathery with seed,
I dream, and see the people pass:
They pay me little heed.
And yet the children (so I think)
In spite of other flowers more dear,
Would miss my clusters white and pink,
If I should disappear.
“Ho, Heather, ho! From south to north
Spread now your royal purple forth!
Ho, jolly one! From east to west,
The moorland waiteth to be dressed!”
I come, I come! With footsteps sure
I run to clothe the waiting moor;
From heath to heath I leap and stride
To fling my bounty far and wide.
By the furrowed fields I lie,
Calling to the passers-by:
“If the weather you would tell,
Look at Scarlet Pimpernel.”
When the day is warm and fine,
I unfold these flowers of mine;
Ah, but you must look for rain
When I shut them up again!
Weather-glasses on the walls
Hang in wealthy people’s halls:
Though I lie where cart-wheels pass
I’m the Poor Man’s Weather-Glass!
My name is Nightshade, also Bittersweet;
Ah, little folk, be wise!
Hide you your hands behind you when we meet,
Turn you away your eyes.
My flowers you shall not pick, nor berries eat,
For in them poison lies.
What do you see?”
The cool green woodland,
The fat velvet bee;
Hey, Mr Bumble,
I’ve honey here for thee!
What see you now?”
The soft summer moonlight
On bracken, grass, and bough;
And all the fairies dancing
As only they know how.
I’m little White Clover, kind and clean;
Look at my threefold leaves so green;
Hark to the buzzing of hungry bees:
“Give us your honey, Clover, please!”
Yes, little bees, and welcome, too!
My honey is good, and meant for you!
The lane is deep, the bank is steep,
The tangled hedge is high;
And clinging, twisting, up I creep,
And climb towards the sky.
O Honeysuckle, mounting high!
O Woodbine, climbing to the sky!
The people in the lane below
Look up and see me there,
Where I my honey-trumpets blow,
Whose sweetness fills the air.
O Honeysuckle, waving there!
O Woodbine, scenting all the air!
O bells, on stems so thin and fine!
No human ear
Your sound can hear,
O lightly chiming bells of mine!
When dim and dewy twilight falls,
Then comes the time
When harebells chime
For fairy feasts and fairy balls.
They tinkle while the fairies play,
With dance and song,
The whole night long,
Till daybreak wakens, cold and grey,
And elfin music fades away.
Like frilly cushions full of pins
For tiny dames and fairykins;
Or else like dancers decked with gems,
My flowers sway on slender stems.
They curtsey in the meadow grass,
And nod to butterflies who pass.
The green wheat’s a-growing,
The lark sings on high;
In scarlet silk a-glowing,
Here stand I.
The wheat’s turning yellow,
Ripening for sheaves;
I hear the little fellow
Who scares the bird-thieves.
Now the harvest’s ended,
The wheat-field is bare;
But still, red and splendid,
I am there.
The children, the children,
they call me funny names,
They take me for their darling
and partner in their games;
They pinch my flowers’ yellow mouths,
to open them and close,
or, darling Bunny-Nose!
The Toadflax, the Toadflax,
with lemon-coloured spikes,
With funny friendly faces
that everybody likes,
Upon the grassy hillside
and hedgerow bank it grows,
And it’s Snap-Dragon!
and darling Bunny-Nose!
Now is the prime of Summer past,
Farewell she soon must say;
But yet my gold you may behold
By every grassy way.
And what though Autumn comes apace,
And brings a shorter day?
Still stand I here, your eyes to cheer,
In gallant gold array.
Traveller, traveller, tramping by
To the seaport town where the big ships lie,
See, I have built a shady bower
To shelter you from the sun or shower.
Rest for a bit, then on, my boy!
Luck go with you, and Traveller’s Joy!
Traveller, traveller, tramping home
From foreign places beyond the foam,
See, I have hung out a white festoon
To greet the lad with the dusty shoon.
Somewhere a lass looks out for a boy:
Luck be with you, and Traveller’s Joy!
Best and dearest flower that grows,
Perfect both to see and smell;
Words can never, never tell
Half the beauty of a Rose—
Buds that open to disclose
Fold on fold of purest white,
Lovely pink, or red that glows
Deep, sweet-scented. What delight
To be Fairy of the Rose!
Clear blue are the skies;
My petals are blue;
As beautiful, too,
As bluest of eyes.
The heavens are high:
By the field-path I grow
Where wayfarers go,
And “Good speed,” say I;
“See, here is a prize
Of wonderful worth:
A weed of the earth,
As blue as the skies!”
In the wood the trees are tall,
Up and up they tower;
You and I are very small—
Fairy-child and flower.
Bracken stalks are shooting high,
Far and far above us;
We are little, you and I,
But the fairies love us.
I am brittle-stemmed and slender,
But the grass is my defender.
On the banks where grass is long,
I can stand erect and strong.
All my mass of starry faces
Looking up from wayside places,
From the thick and tangled grass,
Gives you greeting as you pass.
My hundred thousand bells of blue,
The splendour of the Spring,
They carpet all the woods anew
With royalty of sapphire hue;
The Primrose is the Queen, ’tis true.
But surely I am King!
The peerless Woodland King!
Loud, loud the thrushes sing their song;
The bluebell woods are wide;
My stems are tall and straight and strong;
From ugly streets the children throng,
They gather armfuls, great and long,
Then home they troop in pride—
With laughter and with pride!
While human-folk slumber,
The fairies espy
Stars without number
Sprinkling the sky.
The Winter’s long sleeping,
Like night-time, is done;
But day-stars are leaping
To welcome the sun.
Star-like they sprinkle
The wildwood with light;
Countless they twinkle—
The Windflowers white!
Come to me and play with me,
I’m the babies’ flower;
Make a necklace gay with me,
Spend the whole long day with me,
Till the sunset hour.
I must say Good-night, you know,
Till tomorrow’s playtime;
Close my petals tight, you know,
Shut the red and white, you know,
Sleeping till the daytime.
I’m everyone’s darling: the blackbird and starling
Are shouting about me from blossoming boughs;
For I, the Lent Lily, the Daffy-down-dilly,
Have heard through the country the call to arouse.
The orchards are ringing with voices a-singing
The praise of my petticoat, praise of my gown;
The children are playing, and hark! they are saying
That Daffy-down-dilly is come up to town!
The wren and robin hop around;
The Primrose-maids my neighbours be;
The sun has warmed the mossy ground;
Where Spring has come, I too am found:
The Cuckoo’s call has wakened me!
The people call me Palm, they do;
They call me Pussy-willow too.
And when I’m full in bloom, the bees
Come humming round my yellow trees.
The people trample round about
And spoil the little trees, and shout;
My shiny twigs are thin and brown:
The people pull and break them down.
To keep a Holy Feast, they say,
They take my pretty boughs away.
I should be glad—I should not mind—
If only people weren’t unkind.
Oh, you may pick a piece, you may
(So dear and silky, soft and grey);
But if you’re rough and greedy, why
You’ll make the little fairies cry.
Sing a song of Larch trees
Loved by fairy-folk;
Dark stands the pinewood,
Bare stands the oak,
But the Larch is dressed and trimmed
Fit for fairy-folk!
Sing a song of Larch trees,
Sprays that swing aloft,
Pink tufts, and tassels
Grass-green and soft:
All to please the little elves
Singing songs aloft!
Where the grass is damp and green,
Where the shallow streams are flowing,
Where the cowslip buds are showing,
I am seen.
Dainty as a fairy’s frock,
White or mauve, of elfin sewing,
’Tis the meadow-maiden growing—
The Primrose opens wide in spring;
Her scent is sweet and good:
It smells of every happy thing
In sunny lane and wood.
I have not half the skill to sing
And praise her as I should.
She’s dear to folk throughout the land;
In her is nothing mean:
She freely spreads on every hand
Her petals pale and clean.
And though she’s neither proud nor grand,
She is the Country Queen.
Here’s the Dandelion’s rhyme:
See my leaves with tooth-like edges;
Blow my clocks to tell the time;
See me flaunting by the hedges,
In the meadow, in the lane,
Gay and naughty in the garden;
Pull me up—I grow again,
Asking neither leave nor pardon.
Sillies, what are you about
With your spades and hoes of iron?
You can never drive me out—
Me, the dauntless Dandelion!
Before the hawthorn leaves unfold,
Or buttercups put forth their gold,
By every sunny footpath shine
The stars of Lesser Celandine.