When good-nights have been prattled, and prayers have been said,
And the last little sunbeam is tucked up in bed,
Then, skirting the trees on a carpet of snow,
The elves and the fairies come out in a row.
With a preening of wings
They are forming in rings;
Pirouetting and setting they cross and advance
In a ripple of laughter, and pair for a dance.
And it's oh for the boom of the fairy bassoon,
And the oboes and horns as they strike up a tune,
And the twang of the harps and the sigh of the lutes,
And the clash of the cymbals, the purl of the flutes;
And the fiddles sail in
To the musical din,
While the chief all on fire, with a flame for a hand,
Rattles on the gay measure and stirs up his band.
With a pointing of toes and a lifting of wrists
They are off through the whirls and the twirls and the twists;
Thread the mazes of marvellous figures, and chime
With a bow to a curtsey, and always keep time:
All the gallant and girls
In their diamonds and pearls,
And their gauze and their sparkles, designed for a dance
By the leaders of fairy-land fashion in France.
But the old lady fairies sit out by the trees,
And the old beaux attend them as pert as you please.
They quiz the young dancers and scorn their display,
And deny any grace to the dance of to-day;
"In Oberon's reign,"
So they're heard to complain,
"When we went out at night we could temper our fun
With some manners in dancing, but now there are none."
But at last, though the music goes gallantly on,
And the dancers are none of them weary or gone,
When the gauze is in rags and the hair is awry,
Comes a light in the East and a sudden cock-cry.
With a scurry of fear
Then they all disappear,
Leaving never a trace of their gay little selves
Or the winter-night dance of the fairies and elves.