As the child sat, the tendrils shook round her;
And, blended tenderly in middle air,
Gleamed the long orchard through the ivied gate:
And slanting sunbeams made the heart elate,
Startling it into gladness like the sound,
Which echo childlike mimicks faintly round
Blending it with the lull of some far flood,
Of one long shout heard in a quiet wood.
A gurgling laugh far off the fountain sent,
As if the mermaid shape that in it bent
Spoke with subdued and faintest melody:
And birds sang their whole hearts spontaneously.
When from your books released, pass here your hours,
Dear child, the sweet companion of these flowers,
These poplars, scented shrubs, and blossomed boughs
Of fruit-trees, where the noisy sparrows house,
Shaking from off the leaves the beaded dew.
Now while the air is warm, the heavens blue,
Give full abandonment to all your gay
Swift childlike impulses in rompish play;
The while your sisters in shrill laughter shout,
Whirling above the leaves and round about,
Until at length it drops behind the wall,
With awkward jerks, the particoloured ball:
Winning a smile even from the stooping age
Of that old matron leaning on her page,
Who in the orchard takes a stroll or two,
Watching you closely yet unseen by you.
Then, tired of gambols, turn into the dark
Fir-skirted margins of your father's park;
And watch the moving shadows, as you pass,
Trace their dim network on the tufted grass,
And how on birch-trunks smooth and branches old,
The velvet moss bursts out in green and gold,
Like the rich lustre full and manifold
On breasts of birds that star the curtained gloom
From their glass cases in the drawing room.
Mark the spring leafage bend its tender spray
Gracefully on the sky's aerial grey;
And listen how the birds so voluble
Sing joyful paeans winding to a swell,
And how the wind, fitful and mournful, grieves
In gusty whirls among the dry red leaves;
And watch the minnows in the water cool,
And floating insects wrinkling all the pool.
Last modified: 26 March 1996