Daily Dabble in the Classics, Louisa May Alcott
THE LAY OF THE GOLDEN GOOSE
LONG ago in a poultry yard
One dull November morn,
Beneath a motherly soft wing
A little goose was born.
Who straightway peeped out of the shell
To view the world beyond,
Longing at once to sally forth
And paddle on the pond.
‘Oh! be not rash,’ her father said,
A mild Socratic bird;
Her mother begged her not to stray
With many a warning word.
But little goosey was perverse,
And eagerly did cry,
I’ve got a lovely pair of wings,
Of course I ought to fly.’
In vain parental cacklings,
In vain the cold sky’s frown,
Ambitious goosey tried to soar,
But always tumbled down.
The farm-yard jeered at her attempts,
The peacocks screamed, ‘Oh fie!
You’re only a domestic goose,
So don’t pretend to fly.’
Great cock-a-doodle from his perch
Crowed daily loud and clear,
‘Stay in the puddle, foolish bird,
That is your proper sphere.’
The ducks and hens said, one and all,
In gossip by the pool,
‘Our children never play such pranks;
My dear, that fowl’s a fool.’
The owls came out and flew about,
Hooting above the rest,
‘No useful egg was ever hatched
From trancendental nest.’
Good little goslings at their play
And well-conducted chicks
Were taught to think poor goosey’s flights
Were naughty, ill-bred tricks.
They were content to swim and scratch,
And not at all inclinded
For any wild-goose chase in search
Of something undefined.
Hard times she had as one may guess,
That young aspiring bird,
Who still from every fall arose
Saddened but undeterred.
She knew she was not nightingale,
Yet spite of much abuse,
She longed to help and cheer the world,
Although a plain gray goose.
She could not sing, she could not fly,
Nor even walk with grace,
And all the farm-yard had declared
A puddle was her place.
But something stronger than herself
Would cry, ‘Go on, go on!’
Remember, though an humble fowl,
You’re cousin to a swan.’
So up and down poor goosey went,
A busy, hopeful bird.
Searched many wide unfruitful fields,
And many waters stirred.
At length she came unto a stream
Most fertile of all Niles,
Where tuneful birds might soar and sing
Among the leafy isles.
Here did she build a little nest
Beside the waters still,
Where the parental goose could rest
Unvexed by any bill.
And here she paused to smooth her plumes,
Ruffled by many plagues;
When suddenly arose the cry,
‘This goose lays golden eggs.’
At once the farm-yard was agog;
The ducks began to quack;
Prim Guinea fowls relenting called,
‘Come back, come back, come back.’
Great chanticleer was pleased to give
A patronizing crow,
And the contemptuous biddies chuckled,
‘I wish my chicks did so.’
The peacocks spread their shining tails,
And cried in accents soft,
‘We want to know you, gifted one,
Come up and sit aloft.’
Wise owls awoke and gravely said,
With proudly swelling breasts,
‘Rare birds have always been evoked
From transcendental nests!’
News-hunting turkeys from afar
Now ran with all thin legs
To gobble facts and fictions of
The goose with golden eggs.
But best of all the little fowls
Still playing on the shore,
Soft downy chicks and goslings gay,
Chirped out, ‘Dear Goose, lay more.’
But goosey all these weary years
Had toiled like any ant,
And wearied out she now replied,
‘My little dears, I can’t.
‘When I was starving, half this corn
Had been of vital use,
Now I am surfeited with food
Like any Strasbourg goose.’
So to escape too many friends,
Without uncivil strife,
She ran to the Atlantic pond
And paddled for her life.
Soon up among the grand old Alps
She found two blessed things:
The health she had so nearly lost,
And rest for weary limbs.
But still across the briny deep
Couched in most friendly words,
Came prayers for letters, tales, or verse,
From literary birds.
Whereat the renovated fowl
With grateful thanks profuse,
Took from her wing a quill and wrote
This lay of a Golden Goose.
Source: Louisa May Alcott, The Lay of the Golden Goose. Poem’s original copyright is held in the Public Domain
Daily Dabble in the Classics is a project of The Moral Liberal’s Founder and Editor In Chief, Steve Farrell.
The collective project, as well as any individualized spelling modernizations, unique formatting, and introductory or explanatory notes, Copyright © 2009-2012 Steve Farrell.
The Moral Liberal recommends: How to Read a Book (A Touchstone book) by Mortimer J. Adler & Charles Van Doren.