Little Elfie

A poem by George MacDonald

I have a puppet-jointed child,
She's but three half-years old;
Through lawless hair her eyes gleam wild
With looks both 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;
And when you lift your eyes anon,
Anon you must say No!

Sometimes, though not oppressed with care,
She has her sleepless fits;
Then, blanket-swathed, in that round chair
The elfish mortal sits;--

Where, if by chance in mood more grave,
A hermit she appears
Propped in the opening of his cave,
Mummied almost with years;

Or like an idol set upright
With folded legs for stem,
Ready to hear prayers all the night
And never answer them.

But where's the idol-hermit thrust?
Her knees like flail-joints go!
Alternate kiss, her mother must,
Now that, now this big toe!

I turn away from her, and write
For minutes three or four:
A tiny spectre, tall and white,
She's standing by the door!

Then something comes into my head
That makes me stop and think:
She's on the table, the quadruped,
And dabbling in my ink!

O Elfie, make no haste to lose
Thy ignorance of offence!
Thou hast the best gift I could choose,
A heavenly confidence.

'Tis time, long-white-gowned Mrs. Ham,
To put you in the ark!
Sleep, Elfie, God-infolded lamb,
Sleep shining through the dark.

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