by: Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888)
voices by the sea-side
- Echoed through the summer air,
- Happy children, fresh and rosy,
- Sang and sported freely there,
- Often turning friendly glances,
- Where, neglectful of them all,
- On his bed among the gray rocks,
- Mused the pale child, little Paul.
- For he never joined their pastimes,
- Never danced upon the sand,
- Only smiled upon them kindly,
- Only waved his wasted hand.
- Many a treasured gift they bore him,
- Best beloved among them all.
- Many a childish heart grieved sadly,
- Thinking of poor little Paul.
- But while Florence was beside him,
- While her face above him bent,
- While her dear voice sounded near him,
- He was happy and content;
- Watching ever the great billows,
- Listening to their ceaseless fall,
- For they brought a pleasant music
- To the ear of little Paul.
- "Sister Floy," the pale child whispered,
- "What is that the blue waves say?
- What strange message are they bringing
- From that shore so far away?
- Who is dwelling in that country
- Whence a low voice seems to call
- Softly, through the dash of waters,
- 'Come away, my little Paul'?"
- But sad Florence could not answer,
- Though her dim eyes tenderly
- Watched the wistful face, that ever
- Gazed across the restless sea,
- While the sunshine like a blessing
- On his bright hair seemed to fall,
- And the winds grew more caressing,
- As they kissed frail little Paul.
- Ere long, paler and more wasted,
- On another bed he lay,
- Where the city's din and discord
- Echoed round him day by day;
- While the voice that to his spirit
- By the sea-side seemed to call,
- Sounded with its tender music
- Very near to little Paul.
- As the deep tones of the ocean
- Linger in the frailest shell,
- So the lonely sea-side musings
- In his memory seemed to dwell.
- And he talked of golden waters
- Rippling on his chamber wall,
- While their melody in fancy
- Cheered the heart of little Paul.
- Clinging fast to faithful Florence,
- Murmuring faintly night and day,
- Of the swift and darksome river
- Bearing him so far away,
- Toward a shore whose blessed sunshine
- Seemed most radiantly to fall
- On a beautiful mild spirit,
- Waiting there for little Paul.
- So the tide of life ebbed slowly,
- Till the last wave died away,
- And nothing but the fragile wreck
- On the sister's bosom lay.
- And from out death's solemn waters,
- Lifted high above them all,
- In her arms the spirit mother
- Bore the soul of little Paul.
POEMS BY LOUISA MAY ALCOTT
"Little Paul" is reprinted
from the Saturday Evening Gazette, April 19, 1856.