Alice Cary

The Wise Fairy

Once, in a rough, wild country,

On the other side of the sea,

There lived a dear little fairy,

And her home was in a tree;

A dear little, queer little fairy,

And as rich as she could be.

To northward and to southward,

She could overlook the land,

And that was why she had her house

In a tree, you understand.

For she was the friend of the friendless,

And her heart was in her hand.

And when she saw poor women

Patiently, day by day,

Spinning, spinning, and spinning

Their lonesome lives away,

She would hide in the flax of their distaffs

A lump of gold, they say.

And when she saw poor ditchers,

Knee-deep in some wet dike,

Digging, digging, and digging,

To their very graves, belike,

She would hide a shining lump of gold

Where their spades would be sure to strike.

And when she saw poor children

Their goats from the pastures take,

Or saw them milking and milking,

Till their arms were ready to break,

What a splashing in their milking-pails

Her gifts of gold would make!

Sometimes in the night, a fisher

Would hear her sweet low call,

And all at once a salmon of gold

Right out of his net would fall;

But what I have to tell you

Is the strangest thing of all.

If any ditcher, or fisher,

Or child, or spinner old,

Bought shoes for his feet, or bread to eat,

Or a coat to keep from the cold,

The gift of the good old fairy

Was always trusty gold.

But if a ditcher, or fisher,

Or spinner, or child so gay,

Bought jewels, or wine, or silks so fine,

Or staked his pleasure at play,

The fairy's gold in his very hold

Would turn to a lump of clay.

So, by and by the people

Got open their stupid eyes:

"We must learn to spend to some good end,"

They said, "if we are wise;

'T is not in the gold we waste or hold,

That a golden blessing lies."