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."