The Little People

A poem by Madison Julius Cawein


When the lily nods in slumber,
And the roses all are sleeping;
When the night hangs deep and umber,
And the stars their watch are keeping;
When the clematis uncloses
Like a hand of snowy fire,
And the golden-lipped primroses,
To the tiger-moths' desire,
Each a mouth of musk unpuckers
Silken pouts of scented sweetness,
That they sip with honey-suckers;
Shod with hush and winged with fleetness,
You may see the Little People,
'Round and 'round the drowsy steeple
Of a belfried hollyhock,
Clothed in phlox and four-o'clock,
Gay of gown and pantaloon,
Dancing by the glimmering moon,
Till the cock, the long-necked cock,
Crows them they must vanish soon.


When the cobweb is a cradle
For the dreaming dew to sleep in;
And each blossom is a ladle
That the perfumed rain lies deep in;
When the gleaming fireflies scribble
Darkness as with lines flame-tragic,
And the night seems some dim sibyl
Speaking gold, or wording magic
Silent-syllabled and golden;
Capped with snapdragon and hooded
With the sweet-pea, vague-beholden,
You may see the Little People,
Underneath the sleepy steeple
Of a towering mullen-stock,
Trip it over moss and rock
To the owlet's elvish tune
And the tree-toad's gnome bassoon,
Till the cock, the barnyard cock,
Crows them they must vanish soon.


When the wind upon the water
Seems a boat of ray and ripple,
That some fairy moonbeam daughter
Steers with sails that drift and dripple;
When the sound of grig and cricket,
Ever singing, ever humming,
Seems a goblin in the thicket
On his elfin viol strumming;
When the toadstool, coned and milky,
Heaves a roof for snails to clamber;
Thistledown- and milkweed-silky,
With loose locks of jade and amber,
You may see the Little People,
Underneath the pixy steeple
Of a dom├ęd mushroom, flock,
Quaint in wildflower vest and frock,
Whirling by the waning moon
To the whippoorwill's weird tune,
Till the cock, the far-off cock,
Crows them they must vanish soon.

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