I have an elfish maiden child;
She is not two years old;
Through windy locks her eyes gleam wild,
With glances shy and bold.
Like little imps, her tiny hands
Dart out and push and take;
Chide her–a trembling thing she stands,
And like two leaves they shake.
But to her mind a minute gone
Is like a year ago;
So when you lift your eyes anon,
They’re at it, to and fro.
Sometimes, though not oppressed with thought,
She has her sleepless fits;
Then to my room in blanket brought,
In round-backed chair she sits;
Where, if by chance in graver mood,
A hermit she appears,
Seated in cave of ancient wood,
Grown very still with years.
Then suddenly the pope she is,
A playful one, I know;
For up and down, now that, now this,
Her feet like plash-mill go.
Why like the pope? She’s at it yet,
Her knee-joints flail-like go:
Unthinking man! it is to let
Her mother kiss each toe.
But if I turn away and write,
Then sudden look around,
I almost tremble; tall and white
She stands upon the ground.
In long night-gown, a tiny ghost,
She stands unmoving there;
Or if she moves, my wits were lost
To meet her on the stair!
O Elfie, make no haste to lose
Thy lack of conscious sense;
Thou hast the best gift I could choose,
A God-like confidence.