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Poem by 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. 

Louisa May Alcott

Louisa May Alcott's other poems:
  1. To Papa
  2. My Doves
  3. A Little Grey Curl

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