Finger Play Songs & Poems

COUNTING THE FINGERS

This is the thumb, you see;
This finger shakes the tree;
And then this finger comes up;
And this one eats the plums up;
This little one, says he,
“I’ll tell of you, you’ll see!”

That one is the thumb;
And this one wants a plum;
This one says, “Where do they grow?”
This one says, “Come with me—I know.”
But this little one, he says,
“I will not go near the place!
I don’t like such naughty ways.”

Now, I think that through and through
Little Finger’s right—don’t you?

This one fell in the water,
And this one helped him ashore,
And this one put him into bed,
And this one covered him o’er;
And then, in walks this noisy little chap,
And wakes him up once more.

This one walked out into the wood,
And caught a little hare;
And this one took and carried it home,
For he thought it dainty fare;
And this one came and cooked it up
With sauces rich and rare;
And this one laid the table out,
And did the plates prepare;
And this little fellow the keeper told
What the others were doing there.

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AN OLD NORSE FINGER PLAY

Thicken man, build the barn,
Thinner man, spool the yarn,
Longen man, stir the brew,
Gowden man, make a shoe,
Littlen man, all for you!

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BABY’S TOES

Dear little bare feet,
Dimpled and white,
In your long nightgown
Wrapped for the night.

Come, let me count all
Your queer little toes,
Pink as the heart
Of a shell or a rose.

One is a lady
That sits in the sun;
Two is a baby,
And three is a nun.

Four is a lily
With innocent breast;
And five is a birdie
Asleep on her nest.

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BABY’S TOES
by Edith A. Bentley

Five little piggie wiggies
Standing in a row,
We always have to toddle
Where the baby wants to go;
Up-stairs and down-stairs,
Indoors and out,
We’re always close together
And we never fall out.

Chorus:
Father-Pig and Mother-Pig,
And Big-Brother Pig,
And Sister-Pig, and darling little
Baby Piggie-Wig!

Oh, sometimes we are all tied up
In a bag so tight.
This is when the baby goes
“To sleepy-bye” at night.
Then there’s nothing else to do
But cuddle down and rest—
Just as little birdies cuddle
In their little nest.

Chorus:
Father-Pig and Mother-Pig
And Big-Brother Pig,
And Sister-Pig, and darling little
Baby Piggie-Wig!

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THIS IS THE WAY MY FINGERS STAND
(To the tune of “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush.”)

This is the way my fingers stand,
Fingers stand, fingers stand,
This is the way my fingers stand,
So early in the morning.

This is the way I fold my hand,
Fold my hand, fold my hand,
This is the way I fold my hand,
So early in the morning.

This is the way they dance about,
Dance about, dance about,
This is the way they dance about,
So early in the morning.

This is the way they go to rest,
Go to rest, go to rest,
This is the way they go to rest,
So early in the morning.

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THUMBKIN, POINTER

Thumbkin, Pointer, Middleman big,
Sillyman, Weeman, rig-a-jig-jig.

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NAMING THE FINGERS
by Laura E. Richards

This is little Tommy Thumb,
Round and smooth as any plum.
This is busy Peter Pointer:
Surely he’s a double-jointer.
This is mighty Toby Tall,
He’s the biggest one of all.
This is dainty Reuben Ring:
He’s too fine for anything.
And this little wee one, maybe,
Is the pretty Finger-baby.

All the five we’ve counted now,
Busy fingers in a row.
Every finger knows the way
How to work and how to play;
Yet together work they best,
Each one helping all the rest.

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ROBERT BARNS

Robert Barns, fellow fine,
Can you shoe this horse of mine,
So that I may cut a shine?
Yes, good sir, and that I can,
As well as any other man;
There a nail, and here a prod,
And now, good sir, your horse is shod.

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JACK, BE NIMBLE

Jack, be nimble,
Jack, be quick;

(Jack is one hand walking along on its fore- and middle-fingers.)

Jack, jump over
The candlestick.

(Fist closed; uplifted thumb for candle. Jack jumps over it.)

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TWO LITTLE HANDS

Two little hands so soft and white,
This is the left—this is the right.
Five little fingers stand on each,
So I can hold a plum or a peach.
But if I should grow as old as you
Lots of little things these hands can do.

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PAT A CAKE

Pat a cake, pat a cake, baker’s man.
So I do, master, as fast as I can.
Pat it, and prick it, and mark it with T,
And then it will serve for Tommy and me.

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THE BIRD’S NEST

Here upon the leaves at rest
A little bird has built her nest.
Two tiny eggs within she’s laid,
And many days beside them stayed.
Now she’s happy; listen well!
Two baby birds break through the shell.
Don’t you hear them? “Peep! peep! peep!
We love you, mother. Cheep! cheep! cheep!”

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TWO LITTLE BLACKBIRDS

There were two blackbirds sitting on a hill,
(Little pieces of paper perched on forefingers.)
One named Jack, the other named Jill.
Fly away, Jack; fly away, Jill.
(Fingers soar gently in the air.)
Come again, Jack; come again, Jill.
(Fingers fly back.)

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MASTER SMITH

Is Master Smith within? Yes, that he is.
Can he set a shoe? Ay, marry, two.
Here a nail, and there a nail,
Tick—tack—too.

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LITTLE ROBIN REDBREAST

Little Robin Redbreast
Sat upon a rail,
(Right hand extended in shape of a bird is poised
on extended forefinger of left hand.)
Niddle noddle went his head,
And waggle went his tail.
(Little finger of right hand waggles from side to side.)

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GREETING

Good little Mother,
How do you do?
Dear strong “Daddy,”
Glad to see you!
Big tall Brother,
Pleased you are here.
Kind little Sister,
You need not fear,
Glad welcome we’ll give you,
And Babykins, too.
Yes, Babykins,
How do you do?

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A PLAY FOR THE ARMS

Pump, pump, pump,
Water, water, come;
Here a rush, there a gush,
Done, done, done.

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THE LITTLE WINDOW

Look, my dear, at this window clear.
See how the light shines through in here.
If you would always see the light,
Keep your heart’s window clean and bright.

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SING A SONG OF SIXPENCE

Sing a song of sixpence,
A pocket full of rye;
Four-and-twenty blackbirds
Baked in a pie;
When the pie was opened
The birds began to sing;
Was not that a dainty dish
To set before the King?

The King was in his counting-house,
Counting out his money;
The Queen was in the parlor,
Eating bread and honey;
The maid was in the garden
Hanging out the clothes;
When up came a blackbird
And nipped off her nose.

(At this line somebody’s nose gets nipped.)

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THE PIGEON HOUSE

Now I’m going to open my pigeon-house door.
The pigeons fly out to the light,
Straight to the meadows so pleasant they soar,
And flutter about with delight.
But at evening they’ll all come home at last,
And the door of the house I’ll then shut fast.

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SAID THIS LITTLE FAIRY

Said this little fairy, “I’m as thirsty as can be.”
Said this little fairy, “I’m hungry, too, dear me!”
Said this little fairy, “Who’ll tell us where to go?”
Said this little fairy, “I’m sure that I don’t know.”
Said this little fairy, “Let’s brew some dewdrop tea.”
So they sipped it and ate honey beneath the maple tree.

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A BURROWING GAME

See the little mousie, creeping up the stair,
Looking for a warm nest—there, oh, there!

(Mother’s fingers creep up the body, and finally fumble in baby’s neck.)

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PAT A CAKE

Baby, would you like to make
For yourself a little cake?
Pat it gently, smooth it down.
Baker says: “Now, in to brown;
Bring it here, baby dear,
While the oven fire burns clear.”
“Baker, see, here is my cake;
Bake it well for baby’s sake.”
“In the oven, right deep down,
Here the cake will soon get brown.”

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PUTTING THE FINGERS TO SLEEP

My fingers are so sleepy
It’s time they went to bed,
So first, you Baby Finger
Tuck in your Little Head.

Ringman, come now its your turn,
And then come, Tallman Great;
Now, Pointer Finger, hurry
Because its getting late.

Let’s see if all are snuggled.
No, here’s one more to come,
So come, lie close, little brothers,
Make room for Master Thumb.

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TEN LITTLE SQUIRRELS

Ten little squirrels up in a tree—
(Ten fingers outspread.)

The first two said: “What do I see?”
(Thumbs only.)

The next two said: “A man with a gun.”
(Forefingers only.)

The next two said: “Let’s run, let’s run.”
(Middle fingers only.)

The next two said: “Let’s hide in the shade.”
(Ring fingers only.)

The last two said: “We’re not afraid.”
(Little fingers only.)

Bang! went a gun.
(Clap hands.)

Away they all run.
(All fingers scamper off.)

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MY LITTLE GARDEN

See my little garden,
How I rake it over,
Then I sow the little brown seeds,
And with soft earth cover.
Now the raindrops patter
On the earth so gayly;

See the big round sun smile
On my garden daily.
The little plant is waking;
Down the roots grow creeping;

Up now come the leaflets
Through the brown earth peeping.

Soon the buds will laugh up
Toward the springtime showers;
Soon my buds will open
Into happy flowers.

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THE FAMILY
BY Emilie Poulsson

This is the mother, so busy at home,
Who loves her dear children, whatever may come.

This is the father, so brave and so strong,
Who works for his family all the day long.

This is the brother, who’ll soon be a man,
He helps his good mother as much as he can.

This is the sister, so gentle and mild,
Who plays that the dolly is her little child.

This is the baby, all dimpled and sweet,
How soft his wee hands and his chubby pink feet!

Father, and mother,
and children so dear,

Together you see them,
one family here.

Do You Like My Cat?

I like my cat, I like him well,
As all the house may see
I like him for himself, and not
Because the cat likes me.

He counts his only work in life,
To flourish and be fat;
And this he does with all his might;—
Of course, I like my cat.

His eyes shine out beneath his brows,
As eyes have rarely shone;
His beauty is the grandest thing
That ever cat put on.

He wears a paw of wondrous bulk,
With secret claws to match,
And puts a charm in all its play,
The pat, the box, the scratch.

I have not heard how cats are made
Within their furry veil,
But rather fancy Tippo’s thoughts
Lie chiefly in his tail.

For while in every other part
His portly person sleeps,
That bushy tail, with steady wave,
A ceaseless vigil keeps.

The Swan and The Drake

Slowly, in majestic silence,
Sailed a Swan upon a lake;
Round about him, never quiet,
Swam a noisy quacking Drake.

“Swan,” exclaimed the latter, halting,
“I can scarcely comprehend
Why I never hear you talking:
Are you really dumb, my friend?”

Said the Swan, by way of answer:
“I have wondered, when you make
Such a shocking, senseless clatter,
Whether you are deaf, Sir Drake!”

Better, like the Swan, remain in
Silence grave and dignified,
Than keep, drake-like, ever prating,
While your listeners deride.

Puppies and Turtoise

A sight most strange and wonderful
Three little puppies saw—
A creature out of shell of horn
Popped out a head and claw.

They jumped and barked, and barked again,
And stared with open eyes;
The sight of such a strange shaped thing
So filled them with surprise.

They wondered at its smooth, brown shell,
Its skin both brown and green;
And thought it was the strangest siht
They ever yet had seen.

They would have tried to bite and scratch
This funny looking thing;
But now they thought it might have hid
A sharp and biting sting.

A Dear Little Granny

I want to be your granny—
Granny, granny dear;
Do you think in glasses
I’m anything like near?

Would you take me for her
If I wore her cap;
Told you pretty stories,
Took you in my lap?

Gave you lots of sweeties,
Cakes and apples too?
That’s the way that grannies,
Dear old grannies do!

Good-Night and Good-Morning

A fair little girl sat careless and free,
Sewing as long as her eyes could see;
Then smoothed her work, and folded it right,
And said “Dear Work! good-night! good-night!”

Such a number of rooks came over her head,
Crying “Caw! Caw!” on their way to bed.
She said, as she watched their curious flight,
“Little black things! good-night! good-night!”

The horses neighed, and the oxen lowed;
The sheeps “Bleat! bleat!” came over the road—
All seeming to say with a quiet delight,
“Good little girl! good-night! good-night!”

The tall pink foxglove bowed his head—
The violets curtsied and went to bed;
And good little Lucy tied up her hair,
And said on her knees her favorite prayer.

And while on her pillow she softly lay,
She knew nothing more till again it was day;
And all things said to the beautiful sun,
“Good-morning! good-morning! our work is begun.”

The Spelling Lesson

Now, Pussy, you must be real good,
And learn to spell like me;
When I say, “Pussy, what is this?”
You must say, That is C.

Don’t scratch, and twist, and turn about,
And try to get away;
But, Pussy, please to try and learn:
This is the letter A.

There now, that’s nice, you’re doing well;
Oh, dear! where can she be;
Just as I’d taught her how to spell
Clear to the letter T.

She jumped and ran away so fast,
She must have seen a rat;
And now how will she ever know
That C-A-T spells Cat.

Helping Mother

I shall help mother when I am grown big;
When I am old enough, oh! wont I dig,
Plough with the horses, and call out “Gee-ho!”
Plant the potatoes, fell timber, and mow?

Then I shall fetch the cows home to the byre,
Carry such fagots to make mother’s fire,
Reap and make hay—Hush! who calls? I shant go!
Its only to play with the baby, I know.

A boy who is seven is too big to do that,
Can’t mother nurse her, or give her the cat?
Oh, what a bother! She’s calling me still—
“Come and take the baby off my hands, Bill.”

“I must get your father’s socks finished to-night,
And I can’t while the little girl pulls the thread tight;
There—lift him up, play at ball or Peep-bo—
You will help mother then very greatly you know.”

Bill waited a moment. Then into his mind
Came a thought,—”Little boy, if you don’t feel inclined
To help mother now, when you easily can,
I’m afraid you won’t do it when you are a man.”

So he brightened his face till the baby smiled too;
Hid himself in the cupboard and called out “Cuckoo.”
And on his knee fed her with delicious cream,
And helping mother was not so bad it would seem.

Lily-Bell and Thistledown, by Louisa May Alcott

ONCE upon a time, two little Fairies went out into the world, to seek their fortune. Thistledown was as gay and gallant a little Elf as ever spread a wing. His purple mantle, and doublet of green, were embroidered with the brightest threads, and the plume in his cap came always from the wing of the gayest butterfly.

But he was not loved in Fairy-Land, for, like the flower whose name and colors he wore, though fair to look upon, many were the little thorns of cruelty and selfishness that lay concealed by his gay mantle. Many a gentle flower and harmless bird died by his hand, for he cared for himself alone, and whatever gave him pleasure must be his, though happy hearts were rendered sad, and peaceful homes destroyed.

Such was Thistledown; but far different was his little friend, Lily-Bell. Kind, compassionate, and loving, wherever her gentle face was seen, joy and gratitude were found; no suffering flower or insect, that did not love and bless the kindly Fairy; and thus all Elf-Land looked upon her as a friend. Continue reading

The Flower’s Lesson, by Louisa May Alcott

THERE grew a fragrant rose-tree where the brook flows,
With two little tender buds, and one full rose;
When the sun went down to his bed in the west,
The little buds leaned on the rose-mother’s breast,
While the bright eyed stars their long watch kept,
And the flowers of the valley in their green cradles slept;
Then silently in odors they communed with each other,
The two little buds on the bosom of their mother.
“O sister,” said the little one, as she gazed at the sky,
“I wish that the Dew Elves, as they wander lightly by,
Would bring me a star; for they never grow dim,
And the Father does not need them to burn round him.
The shining drops of dew the Elves bring each day
And place in my bosom, so soon pass away;
But a star would glitter brightly through the long summer hours,
And I should be fairer than all my sister flowers.
That were better far than the dew-drops that fall
On the high and the low, and come alike to all.
I would be fair and stately, with a bright star to shine
And give a queenly air to this crimson robe of mine.”
And proudly she cried, “These fire-flies shall be
My jewels, since the stars can never come to me.”
Just then a tiny dew-drop that hung o’er the dell
On the breast of the bud like a soft star fell;
But impatiently she flung it away from her leaf,
And it fell on her mother like a tear of grief,
While she folded to her breast, with wilful pride,
A glittering fire-fly that hung by her side.
“Heed,” said the mother rose, “daughter mine,
Why shouldst thou seek for beauty not thine?
The Father hath made thee what thou now art;
And what he most loveth is a sweet, pure heart.
Then why dost thou take with such discontent
The loving gift which he to thee hath sent?
For the cool fresh dew will render thee far
More lovely and sweet than the brightest star;
They were made for Heaven, and can never come to shine
Like the fire-fly thou hast in that foolish breast of thine.
O my foolish little bud, do listen to thy mother;
Care only for true beauty, and seek for no other.
There will be grief and trouble in that wilful little heart;
Unfold thy leaves, my daughter, and let the fly depart.”
But the proud little bud would have her own will,
And folded the fire-fly more closely still;
Till the struggling insect tore open the vest
Of purple and green, that covered her breast.
When the sun came up, she saw with grief
The blooming of her sister bud leaf by leaf.
While she, once as fair and bright as the rest,
Hung her weary head down on her wounded breast.
Bright grew the sunshine, and the soft summer air
Was filled with the music of flowers singing there;
But faint grew the little bud with thirst and pain,
And longed for the cool dew; but now ‘t was in vain.
Then bitterly she wept for her folly and pride,
As drooping she stood by her fair sister’s side.
Then the rose mother leaned the weary little head
On her bosom to rest, and tenderly she said:
“Thou hast learned, my little bud, that, whatever may betide,
Thou canst win thyself no joy by passion or by pride.
The loving Father sends the sunshine and the shower,
That thou mayst become a perfect little flower; –
The sweet dews to feed thee, the soft wind to cheer,
And the earth as a pleasant home, while thou art dwelling here.
Then shouldst thou not be grateful for all this kindly care,
And strive to keep thyself most innocent and fair?
Then seek, my little blossom, to win humility;
Be fair without, be pure within, and thou wilt happy be.
So when the quiet Autumn of thy fragrant life shall come,
Thou mayst pass away, to bloom in the Flower Spirits’ home.”
Then from the mother’s breast, where it still lay hid,
Into the fading bud the dew-drop gently slid;
Stronger grew the little form, and happy tears fell,
As the dew did its silent work, and the bud grew well,
While the gentle rose leaned, with motherly pride,
O’er the fair little ones that bloomed at her side.

Night came again, and the fire-flies flew;
But the bud let them pass, and drank of the dew;
While the soft stars shone, from the still summer heaven,
On the happy little flower that had learned the lesson given.
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The music-loving Elves clapped their hands, as Star-Twinkle ceased; and the Queen placed a flower crown, with a gentle smile, upon the Fairy’s head, saying, –

“The little bud’s lesson shall teach us how sad a thing is pride, and that humility alone can bring true happiness to flower and Fairy. You shall come next, Zephyr.”

And the little Fairy, who lay rocking to and fro upon a fluttering vine-leaf, thus began her story: –

“As I lay resting in the bosom of a cowslip that bent above the brook, a little wind, tired of play, told me this tale of…

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image: An illustration from a 1902 Herrick Seed Company catalog. @ corbis

Eva’s Visit to Fairy-Land, by Louisa May Alcott

DOWN among the grass and fragrant clover lay little Eva by the brook-side, watching the bright waves, as they went singing by under the drooping flowers that grew on its banks. As she was wondering where the waters went, she heard a faint, low sound, as of far-off music. She thought it was the wind, but not a leaf was stirring, and soon through the rippling water came a strange little boat.

It was a lily of the valley, whose tall stem formed the mast, while the broad leaves that rose from the roots, and drooped again till they reached the water, were filled with gay little Elves, who danced to the music of the silver lily-bells above, that rang a merry peal, and filled the air with their fragrant breath.

On came the fairy boat, till it reached a moss-grown rock; and here it stopped, while the Fairies rested beneath the violet-leaves, and sang with the dancing waves.

Eva looked with wonder on their gay faces and bright garments, and in the joy of her heart sang too, and threw crimson fruit for the little folks to feast upon.

They looked kindly on the child, and, after whispering long among themselves, two little bright-eyed Elves flew over the shining water, and, lighting on the clover-blossoms, said gently, “Little maiden, many thanks for your kindness; and our Queen bids us ask if you will go with us to Fairy-Land, and learn what we can teach you.”

“Gladly would I go with you, dear Fairies,” said Eva, “but I cannot sail in your little boat. See! I can hold you in my hand, and could not live among you without harming your tiny kingdom, I am so large.”

Then the Elves laughed gayly, as they folded their arms about her, saying, “You are a good child, dear Eva, to fear doing harm to those weaker than yourself. You cannot hurt us now. Look in the water and see what we have done.”

Eva looked into the brook, and saw a tiny child standing between the Elves. “Now I can go with you,” said she, “but see, I can no longer step from the bank to yonder stone, for the brook seems now like a great river, and you have not given me wings like yours.”

But the Fairies took each a hand, and flew lightly over the stream. The Queen and her subjects came to meet her, and all seemed glad to say some kindly word of welcome to the little stranger. They placed a flower-crown upon her head, laid their soft faces against her own, and soon it seemed as if the gentle Elves had always been her friends.

“Now must we go home,” said the Queen, “and you shall go with us, little one.”

Then there was a great bustle, as they flew about on shining wings, some laying cushions of violet leaves in the boat, others folding the Queen’s veil and mantle more closely round her, lest the falling dews should chill her.

The cool waves’ gentle plashing against the boat, and the sweet chime of the lily-bells, lulled little Eva to sleep, and when she woke it was in Fairy-Land. A faint, rosy light, as of the setting sun, shone on the white pillars of the Queen’s palace as they passed in, and the sleeping flowers leaned gracefully on their stems, dreaming beneath their soft green curtains. All was cool and still, and the Elves glided silently about, lest they should break their slumbers. They led Eva to a bed of pure white leaves, above which drooped the fragrant petals of a crimson rose.

“You can look at the bright colors till the light fades, and then the rose will sing you to sleep,” said the Elves, as they folded the soft leaves about her, gently kissed her, and stole away.

Long she lay watching the bright shadows, and listening to the song of the rose, while through the long night dreams of lovely things floated like bright clouds through her mind; while the rose bent lovingly above her, and sang in the clear moonlight.

With the sun rose the Fairies, and, with Eva, hastened away to the fountain, whose cool waters were soon filled with little forms, and the air ringing with happy voices, as the Elves floated in the blue waves among the fair white lilies, or sat on the green moss, smoothing their bright locks, and wearing fresh garlands of dewy flowers. At length the Queen came forth, and her subjects gathered round her, and while the flowers bowed their heads, and the trees hushed their rustling, the Fairies sang their morning hymn to the Father of birds and blossoms, who had made the earth so fair a home for them.

Then they flew away to the gardens, and soon, high up among the tree-tops, or under the broad leaves, sat the Elves in little groups, taking their breakfast of fruit and pure fresh dew; while the bright-winged birds came fearlessly among them, pecking the same ripe berries, and dipping their little beaks in the same flower-cups, and the Fairies folded their arms lovingly about them, smoothed their soft bosoms, and gayly sang to them.

“Now, little Eva,” said they, “you will see that Fairies are not idle, wilful Spirits, as mortals believe. Come, we will show you what we do.”

They led her to a lovely room, through whose walls of deep green leaves the light stole softly in. Here lay many wounded insects, and harmless little creatures, whom cruel hands had hurt; and pale, drooping flowers grew beside urns of healing herbs, from whose fresh leaves came a faint, sweet perfume.

Eva wondered, but silently followed her guide, little Rose-Leaf, who with tender words passed among the delicate blossoms, pouring dew on their feeble roots, cheering them with her loving words and happy smile.

Then she went to the insects; first to a little fly who lay in a flower-leaf cradle.

“Do you suffer much, dear Gauzy-Wing?” asked the Fairy. “I will bind up your poor little leg, and Zephyr shall rock you to sleep.” So she folded the cool leaves tenderly about the poor fly, bathed his wings, and brought him refreshing drink, while he hummed his thanks, and forgot his pain, as Zephyr softly sung and fanned him with her waving wings.

They passed on, and Eva saw beside each bed a Fairy, who with gentle hands and loving words soothed the suffering insects. At length they stopped beside a bee, who lay among sweet honeysuckle flowers, in a cool, still place, where the summer wind blew in, and the green leaves rustled pleasantly. Yet he seemed to find no rest, and murmured of the pain he was doomed to bear. “Why must I lie here, while my kindred are out in the pleasant fields, enjoying the sunlight and the fresh air, and cruel hands have doomed me to this dark place and bitter pain when I have done no wrong? Uncared for and forgotten, I must stay here among these poor things who think only of themselves. Come here, Rose-Leaf, and bind up my wounds, for I am far more useful than idle bird or fly.”

Then said the Fairy, while she bathed the broken wing,—

“Love-Blossom, you should not murmur. We may find happiness in seeking to be patient even while we suffer. You are not forgotten or uncared for, but others need our care more than you, and to those who take cheerfully the pain and sorrow sent, do we most gladly give our help. You need not be idle, even though lying here in darkness and sorrow; you can be taking from your heart all sad and discontented feelings, and if love and patience blossom there, you will be better for the lonely hours spent here. Look on the bed beside you; this little dove has suffered far greater pain than you, and all our care can never ease it; yet through the long days he hath lain here, not an unkind word or a repining sigh hath he uttered. Ah, Love-Blossom, the gentle bird can teach a lesson you will be wiser and better for.”

Then a faint voice whispered, “Little Rose-Leaf, come quickly, or I cannot thank you as I ought for all your loving care of me.”

So they passed to the bed beside the discontented bee, and here upon the softest down lay the dove, whose gentle eyes looked gratefully upon the Fairy, as she knelt beside the little couch, smoothed the soft white bosom, folded her arms about it and wept sorrowing tears, while the bird still whispered its gratitude and love.

“Dear Fairy, the fairest flowers have cheered me with their sweet breath, fresh dew and fragrant leaves have been ever ready for me, gentle hands to tend, kindly hearts to love; and for this I can only thank you and say farewell.”

Then the quivering wings were still, and the patient little dove was dead; but the bee murmured no longer, and the dew from the flowers fell like tears around the quiet bed.

Sadly Rose-Leaf led Eva away, saying, “Lily-Bosom shall have a grave tonight beneath our fairest blossoms, and you shall see that gentleness and love are prized far above gold or beauty, here in Fairy-Land. Come now to the Flower Palace, and see the Fairy Court.”

Beneath green arches, bright with birds and flowers, beside singing waves, went Eva into a lofty hall. The roof of pure white lilies rested on pillars of green clustering vines, while many-colored blossoms threw their bright shadows on the walls, as they danced below in the deep green moss, and their low, sweet voices sounded softly through the sunlit palace, while the rustling leaves kept time.

Beside the throne stood Eva, and watched the lovely forms around her, as they stood, each little band in its own color, with glistening wings, and flower wands.

Suddenly the music grew louder and sweeter, and the Fairies knelt, and bowed their heads, as on through the crowd of loving subjects came the Queen, while the air was filled with gay voices singing to welcome her.

She placed the child beside her, saying, “Little Eva, you shall see now how the flowers on your great earth bloom so brightly. A band of loving little gardeners go daily forth from Fairy-Land, to tend and watch them, that no harm may befall the gentle spirits that dwell beneath their leaves. This is never known, for like all good it is unseen by mortal eyes, and unto only pure hearts like yours do we make known our secret. The humblest flower that grows is visited by our messengers, and often blooms in fragrant beauty unknown, unloved by all save Fairy friends, who seek to fill the spirits with all sweet and gentle virtues, that they may not be useless on the earth; for the noblest mortals stoop to learn of flowers. Now, Eglantine, what have you to tell us of your rosy namesakes on the earth?”

From a group of Elves, whose rose-wreathed wands showed the flower they loved, came one bearing a tiny urn, and, answering the Queen, she said,—

“Over hill and valley they are blooming fresh and fair as summer sun and dew can make them. No drooping stem or withered leaf tells of any evil thought within their fragrant bosoms, and thus from the fairest of their race have they gathered this sweet dew, as a token of their gratitude to one whose tenderness and care have kept them pure and happy; and this, the loveliest of their sisters, have I brought to place among the Fairy flowers that never pass away.”

Eglantine laid the urn before the Queen, and placed the fragrant rose on the dewy moss beside the throne, while a murmur of approval went through the hall, as each elfin wand waved to the little Fairy who had toiled so well and faithfully, and could bring so fair a gift to their good Queen.

Then came forth an Elf bearing a withered leaf, while her many-colored robe and the purple tulips in her hair told her name and charge.

“Dear Queen,” she sadly said, “I would gladly bring as pleasant tidings as my sister, but, alas! my flowers are proud and wilful, and when I went to gather my little gift of colored leaves for royal garments, they bade me bring this withered blossom, and tell you they would serve no longer one who will not make them Queen over all the other flowers. They would yield neither dew nor honey, but proudly closed their leaves and bid me go.”

“Your task has been too hard for you,” said the Queen kindly, as she placed the drooping flower in the urn Eglantine had given, “you will see how this dew from a sweet, pure heart will give new life and loveliness even to this poor faded one. So can you, dear Rainbow, by loving words and gentle teachings, bring back lost purity and peace to those whom pride and selfishness have blighted. Go once again to the proud flowers, and tell them when they are queen of their own hearts they will ask no fairer kingdom. Watch more tenderly than ever over them, see that they lack neither dew nor air, speak lovingly to them, and let no unkind word or deed of theirs anger you. Let them see by your patient love and care how much fairer they might be, and when next you come, you will be laden with gifts from humble, loving flowers.”

Thus they told what they had done, and received from their Queen some gentle chiding or loving word of praise.

“You will be weary of this,” said little Rose-Leaf to Eva; “come now and see where we are taught to read the tales written on flower-leaves, and the sweet language of the birds, and all that can make a Fairy heart wiser and better.”

Then into a cheerful place they went, where were many groups of flowers, among whose leaves sat the child Elves, and learned from their flower-books all that Fairy hands had written there. Some studied how to watch the tender buds, when to spread them to the sunlight, and when to shelter them from rain; how to guard the ripening seeds, and when to lay them in the warm earth or send them on the summer wind to far off hills and valleys, where other Fairy hands would tend and cherish them, till a sisterhood of happy flowers sprang up to beautify and gladden the lonely spot where they had fallen. Others learned to heal the wounded insects, whose frail limbs a breeze could shatter, and who, were it not for Fairy hands, would die ere half their happy summer life had gone. Some learned how by pleasant dreams to cheer and comfort mortal hearts, by whispered words of love to save from evil deeds those who had gone astray, to fill young hearts with gentle thoughts and pure affections, that no sin might mar the beauty of the human flower; while others, like mortal children, learned the Fairy alphabet. Thus the Elves made loving friends by care and love, and no evil thing could harm them, for those they helped to cherish and protect ever watched to shield and save them.

Eva nodded to the gay little ones, as they peeped from among the leaves at the stranger, and then she listened to the Fairy lessons. Several tiny Elves stood on a broad leaf while the teacher sat among the petals of a flower that bent beside them, and asked questions that none but Fairies would care to know.

“Twinkle, if there lay nine seeds within a flower-cup and the wind bore five away, how many would the blossom have?” “Four,” replied the little one.

“Rosebud, if a Cowslip opens three leaves in one day and four the next, how many rosy leaves will there be when the whole flower has bloomed?”

“Seven,” sang the gay little Elf.

“Harebell, if a silkworm spin one yard of Fairy cloth in an hour, how many will it spin in a day?”

“Twelve,” said the Fairy child.

“Primrose, where lies Violet Island?”

“In the Lake of Ripples.”

“Lilla, you may bound Rose Land.”

“On the north by Ferndale, south by Sunny Wave River, east by the hill of Morning Clouds, and west by the Evening Star.”

“Now, little ones,” said the teacher, “you may go to your painting, that our visitor may see how we repair the flowers that earthly hands have injured.”

Then Eva saw how, on large, white leaves, the Fairies learned to imitate the lovely colors, and with tiny brushes to brighten the blush on the anemone’s cheek, to deepen the blue of the violet’s eye, and add new light to the golden cowslip.

“You have stayed long enough,” said the Elves at length, “we have many things to show you. Come now and see what is our dearest work.”

So Eva said farewell to the child Elves, and hastened with little Rose-Leaf to the gates. Here she saw many bands of Fairies, folded in dark mantles that mortals might not know them, who, with the child among them, flew away over hill and valley. Some went to the cottages amid the hills, some to the sea-side to watch above the humble fisher folks; but little Rose-Leaf and many others went into the noisy city.

Eva wondered within herself what good the tiny Elves could do in this great place; but she soon learned, for the Fairy band went among the poor and friendless, bringing pleasant dreams to the sick and old, sweet, tender thoughts of love and gentleness to the young, strength to the weak, and patient cheerfulness to the poor and lonely.

Then the child wondered no longer, but deeper grew her love for the tender-hearted Elves, who left their own happy home to cheer and comfort those who never knew what hands had clothed and fed them, what hearts had given of their own joy, and brought such happiness to theirs.

Long they stayed, and many a lesson little Eva learned: but when she begged them to go back, they still led her on, saying, “Our work is not yet done; shall we leave so many sad hearts when we may cheer them, so many dark homes that we may brighten? We must stay yet longer, little Eva, and you may learn yet more.”

Then they went into a dark and lonely room, and here they found a pale, sad-eyed child, who wept bitter tears over a faded flower.

“Ah,” sighed the little one, “it was my only friend, and I cherished it with all my lone heart’s love; ‘t was all that made my sad life happy; and it is gone.”

Tenderly the child fastened the drooping stem, and placed it where the one faint ray of sunlight stole into the dreary room.

“Do you see,” said the Elves, “through this simple flower will we keep the child pure and stainless amid the sin and sorrow around her. The love of this shall lead her on through temptation and through grief, and she shall be a spirit of joy and consolation to the sinful and the sorrowing.”

And with busy love toiled the Elves amid the withered leaves, and new strength was given to the flower; while, as day by day the friendless child watered the growing buds, deeper grew her love for the unseen friends who had given her one thing to cherish in her lonely home; sweet, gentle thoughts filled her heart as she bent above it, and the blossom’s fragrant breath was to her a whispered voice of all fair and lovely things; and as the flower taught her, so she taught others.

The loving Elves brought her sweet dreams by night, and happy thoughts by day, and as she grew in childlike beauty, pure and patient amid poverty and sorrow, the sinful were rebuked, sorrowing hearts grew light, and the weak and selfish forgot their idle fears, when they saw her trustingly live on with none to aid or comfort her. The love she bore the tender flower kept her own heart innocent and bright, and the pure human flower was a lesson to those who looked upon it; and soon the gloomy house was bright with happy hearts, that learned of the gentle child to bear poverty and grief as she had done, to forgive those who brought care and wrong to them, and to seek for happiness in humble deeds of charity and love.

“Our work is done,” whispered the Elves, and with blessings on the two fair flowers, they flew away to other homes;—to a blind old man who dwelt alone with none to love him, till through long years of darkness and of silent sorrow the heart within had grown dim and cold. No sunlight could enter at the darkened eyes, and none were near to whisper gentle words, to cheer and comfort.

Thus he dwelt forgotten and alone, seeking to give no joy to others, possessing none himself. Life was dark and sad till the untiring Elves came to his dreary home, bringing sunlight and love. They whispered sweet words of comfort,—how, if the darkened eyes could find no light without, within there might be never-failing happiness; gentle feelings and sweet, loving thoughts could make the heart fair, if the gloomy, selfish sorrow were but cast away, and all would be bright and beautiful.

They brought light-hearted children, who gathered round him, making the desolate home fair with their young faces, and his sad heart gay with their sweet, childish voices. The love they bore he could not cast away, sunlight stole in, the dark thoughts passed away, and the earth was a pleasant home to him.

Thus their little hands led him back to peace and happiness, flowers bloomed beside his door, and their fragrant breath brought happy thoughts of pleasant valleys and green hills; birds sang to him, and their sweet voices woke the music in his own soul, that never failed to calm and comfort. Happy sounds were heard in his once lonely home, and bright faces gathered round his knee, and listened tenderly while he strove to tell them all the good that gentleness and love had done for him.

Still the Elves watched near, and brighter grew the heart as kindly thoughts and tender feelings entered in, and made it their home; and when the old man fell asleep, above his grave little feet trod lightly, and loving hands laid fragrant flowers.

Then went the Elves into the dreary prison-houses, where sad hearts pined in lonely sorrow for the joy and freedom they had lost. To these came the loving band with tender words, telling of the peace they yet might win by patient striving and repentant tears, thus waking in their bosoms all the holy feelings and sweet affections that had slept so long.

They told pleasant tales, and sang their sweetest songs to cheer and gladden, while the dim cells grew bright with the sunlight, and fragrant with the flowers the loving Elves had brought, and by their gentle teachings those sad, despairing hearts were filled with patient hope and earnest longing to win back their lost innocence and joy.

Thus to all who needed help or comfort went the faithful Fairies; and when at length they turned towards Fairy-Land, many were the grateful, happy hearts they left behind.

Then through the summer sky, above the blossoming earth, they journeyed home, happier for the joy they had given, wiser for the good they had done.

All Fairy-Land was dressed in flowers, and the soft wind went singing by, laden with their fragrant breath. Sweet music sounded through the air, and troops of Elves in their gayest robes hastened to the palace where the feast was spread.

Soon the bright hall was filled with smiling faces and fair forms, and little Eva, as she stood beside the Queen, thought she had never seen a sight so lovely.

The many-colored shadows of the fairest flowers played on the pure white walls, and fountains sparkled in the sunlight, making music as the cool waves rose and fell, while to and fro, with waving wings and joyous voices, went the smiling Elves, bearing fruit and honey, or fragrant garlands for each other’s hair.

Long they feasted, gayly they sang, and Eva, dancing merrily among them, longed to be an Elf that she might dwell forever in so fair a home.

At length the music ceased, and the Queen said, as she laid her hand on little Eva’s shining hair:—

“Dear child, tomorrow we must bear you home, for, much as we long to keep you, it were wrong to bring such sorrow to your loving earthly friends; therefore we will guide you to the brook-side, and there say farewell till you come again to visit us. Nay, do not weep, dear Rose-Leaf; you shall watch over little Eva’s flowers, and when she looks at them she will think of you. Come now and lead her to the Fairy garden, and show her what we think our fairest sight. Weep no more, but strive to make her last hours with us happy as you can.”

With gentle caresses and most tender words the loving Elves gathered about the child, and, with Rose-Leaf by her side, they led her through the palace, and along green, winding paths, till Eva saw what seemed a wall of flowers rising before her, while the air was filled with the most fragrant odors, and the low, sweet music as of singing blossoms.

“Where have you brought me, and what mean these lovely sounds?” asked Eva.

“Look here, and you shall see,” said Rose-Leaf, as she bent aside the vines, “but listen silently or you cannot hear.”

Then Eva, looking through the drooping vines, beheld a garden filled with the loveliest flowers; fair as were all the blossoms she had seen in Fairy-Land, none were so beautiful as these. The rose glowed with a deeper crimson, the lily’s soft leaves were more purely white, the crocus and humble cowslip shone like sunlight, and the violet was blue as the sky that smiled above it.

“How beautiful they are,” whispered Eva, “but, dear Rose-Leaf, why do you keep them here, and why call you this your fairest sight?”

“Look again, and I will tell you,” answered the Fairy.

Eva looked, and saw from every flower a tiny form come forth to welcome the Elves, who all, save Rose-Leaf, had flown above the wall, and were now scattering dew upon the flowers’ bright leaves and talking gayly with the Spirits, who gathered around them, and seemed full of joy that they had come. The child saw that each one wore the colors of the flower that was its home. Delicate and graceful were the little forms, bright the silken hair that fell about each lovely face; and Eva heard the low, sweet murmur of their silvery voices and the rustle of their wings. She gazed in silent wonder, forgetting she knew not who they were, till the Fairy said,—

“These are the spirits of the flowers, and this the Fairy Home where those whose hearts were pure and loving on the earth come to bloom in fadeless beauty here, when their earthly life is past. The humblest flower that blooms has a home with us, for outward beauty is a worthless thing if all be not fair and sweet within. Do you see yonder lovely spirit singing with my sister Moonlight? a clover blossom was her home, and she dwelt unknown, unloved; yet patient and content, bearing cheerfully the sorrows sent her. We watched and saw how fair and sweet the humble flower grew, and then gladly bore her here, to blossom with the lily and the rose. The flowers’ lives are often short, for cruel hands destroy them; therefore is it our greatest joy to bring them hither, where no careless foot or wintry wind can harm them, where they bloom in quiet beauty, repaying our care by their love and sweetest perfumes.”

“I will never break another flower,” cried Eva; “but let me go to them, dear Fairy; I would gladly know the lovely spirits, and ask forgiveness for the sorrow I have caused. May I not go in?”

“Nay, dear Eva, you are a mortal child, and cannot enter here; but I will tell them of the kind little maiden who has learned to love them, and they will remember you when you are gone. Come now, for you have seen enough, and we must be away.”

On a rosy morning cloud, surrounded by the loving Elves, went Eva through the sunny sky. The fresh wind bore them gently on, and soon they stood again beside the brook, whose waves danced brightly as if to welcome them.

“Now, ere we say farewell,” said the Queen, as they gathered nearer to the child, “tell me, dear Eva, what among all our Fairy gifts will make you happiest, and it shall be yours.”

“You good little Fairies,” said Eva, folding them in her arms, for she was no longer the tiny child she had been in Fairy-Land, “you dear good little Elves, what can I ask of you, who have done so much to make me happy, and taught me so many good and gentle lessons, the memory of which will never pass away? I can only ask of you the power to be as pure and gentle as yourselves, as tender and loving to the weak and sorrowing, as untiring in kindly deeds to all. Grant me this gift, and you shall see that little Eva has not forgotten what you have taught her.”

“The power shall be yours,” said the Elves, and laid their soft hands on her head; “we will watch over you in dreams, and when you would have tidings of us, ask the flowers in your garden, and they will tell you all you would know. Farewell. Remember Fairy-Land and all your loving friends.”

They clung about her tenderly, and little Rose-Leaf placed a flower crown on her head, whispering softly, “When you would come to us again, stand by the brook-side and wave this in the air, and we will gladly take you to our home again. Farewell, dear Eva. Think of your little Rose-Leaf when among the flowers.”

Long Eva watched their shining wings, and listened to the music of their voices as they flew singing home, and when at length the last little form had vanished among the clouds, she saw that all around her where the Elves had been, the fairest flowers had sprung up, and the lonely brook-side was a blooming garden.

Thus she stood among the waving blossoms, with the Fairy garland in her hair, and happy feelings in her heart, better and wiser for her visit to Fairy-Land.

“Now, Star-Twinkle, what have you to teach?” asked the Queen.

“Nothing but a little song I heard the hare-bells singing,” replied the Fairy, and, taking her harp, sang, in a low, sweet voice:—

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image source: corbis / A Rehearsal in Fairy Land by Richard Doyle (1870)