Morning-Glories and Other Stories/Fairy Fire-Fly






O Firefly! I have caught you fast:
   Don't flutter in a rage;
But shine for me a little while
   Here in this dainty cage.
Why are you wandering so late,
   With your small lamp alight,
When bird and bee and butterfly
   Are sleeping through the night?
Come, tell to me a fairy tale;
   Amuse me while you stay;
And, when it's time to go to bed,
   You shall safely fly away.


<poem>I'll tell my own sad story, child,

  Here shining in your net;

And, though I fly away so soon,

  I pray you, don't forget—

I was a lovely fairy once,

  Blithe as an early lark;

And in my little bosom shone

  A beautiful, bright spark:

That was my elfin spirit, dear;

  And, while I lived aright,

It was to me a guiding star,

  To lead me to the light. <poem>I should have loved the blessèd sun. 
  And tried to follow him; 

But, no, I turned my face away,

  And my bright spark grew dim.

My daily duties were not done;

  I did not tend the flowers; 

I did not help the honey-bees

  Improve their shining hours;

No baby butterfly I taught

  To spread its tender wing;

No young bird ever learned of me

  The airy songs we sing.

I left my playmates, one and all,

  So innocent, so gay,—

I would not listen to their words.

  But coldly turned away.

All day I slept, with folded wings,

  Lulled by the singing brook.

Where tall ferns made a shady tent,

  And guarded my still nook.

But, when the stars came out, I woke;

  I loved the meadows damp;

I liked to hear the cricket sing;

  To watch the glow-worm's lamp.

The round-eyed owl, and beetle fierce,

  The hungry, buzzing gnat,

The giddy moth, the croaking frog,

  And stealthy-wingèd bat.

These were the friends I freely chose

  These, and the primrose pale;

I did not even seek to know

  A star or nightingale.

I turned away from lovely things,

  I revelled in the dark,

And day by day more faintly shone

  My precious bosom-spark,

Until, at last, it came to be

  This feeble, fitful light.

And my dim eyes no power had

To see, except by night.

My fairy form passed quite away;
   Alas! I'd gladly die,
For 'tis my punishment to be
   A wandering firefly.
Ah! now I long for all I've lost:
   My mates are flown away;
The birds and bees I pine to see,
   But cannot seek by day.
I haunt the flowers all the night.
   Hoping a home to win,—
The doors are shut: all are asleep:
   I knock; none let me in.
I'm tired of the friends I made;
   I hate the teasing gnat,
The hooting owl, the cricket shrill.
   The beetle, and the bat.
My only mates are the poor moths;
   They seek and love the light.
Though they, like me, sleep all day long,
   And only fly by night
Once they were butterflies, you know,
   And floated in the sun;
But they are doomed to expiate
   The wrongs which they have done,
By madly longing for the shine
   That blinds their feeble eye,
Yet draws them, like a dreadful spell,
   To flutter, burn, and die.
O little child! be warned in time;
   Guard well your bosom spark,
Else it will slowly fade away,
   And leave you in the dark.
Feed it with all things fair and good:
   Then gloomy clouds may roll,
But cannot shadow in your life,—
   Tis sunshine of the soul.