The Little People of the Snow 1873 | Nature

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THE LITTLE PEOPLE OF THE SNOW.

THE LITTLE

PEOPLE OF THE SNOW.

BY

WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT.

Illustrated
FROM DESIGNS BY ALFRED FREDERICKS, ENGRAVED BY
A.

BOBBETT.

NEW YORK:
D.

APPLETON AND COMPANY,
549

&

551

BROADWAY.
1873-

EWTUKIX

According to Act of Congress, in the year 187*,

BY D.

APPLETON &

CO.,

In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.

1

t

THE LITTLE PEOPLE OF THE SNOW.
Alice.

One

of

your

old-world

stories,

Uncle John,

Such
Till

you tell us by the winter fire, we all wonder it has grown so late.
as

Uncle John.

The

story of the witch that

ground

to death

Two
The

children in her mill, or will
tale of

you have

Goody Cutpurse

?

M162523

THE LITTLE PEOPLE OF THE SNOW.
Alice.

Those

stories are too childish,
little

Nay, now, nay Uncle John,
;

Too

childish even for
I

Willy here,
;

And
By Or

am

older,

two good years, than he

No, let us have a tale of elves that ride,
night, with jingling reins, or
water-fairies,

gnomes of the mine,

such as you

know how

To

spin,

till

Willy

s

eyes forget to wink,
as she
is,

And good Aunt
Lays down her
Uncle Jo/in.

Mary, busy

knitting.

Listen to me, then.

Twas

in the

olden time, long, long ago,

And Was

long before the great oak at our door
yet an acorn, on a mountain
s

side

THE LITTLE PEOPLE OF THE SNOW.

Lived, with his wife, a cottager.

They dwelt
first

Beside a glen and near a dashing brook,

A pleasant spot in
Was
Flowers opened
came,

spring,

where

the

wren

heard to chatter, and,
earliest
;

among but, when

the grass,

winter

That

little

brook

was

fringed

with

other

flowers,

White

flowers, with crystal leaf

and stem, that

grew
In clear

November

nights.

And,
filled

later

still,

That mountain glen was snows

with

drifted

From
While,

side to side, that

one might walk across,

many
itself,

a fathom deep, below, the brook

and leaped and trotted on Unfrozen, o er its pebbles, toward the vale.

Sang

to

THE LITTLE PEOPLE OF THE SNOW.
Alice.

A

mountain

s

side,

you

said

;

the

Alps,

perhaps,

Or our own

Alleghanies.

Uncle John.

Not

so

fast,

young geographer, for then the Alps, With their broad pastures, haply were untrod

My

Of herdsman

s foot,

and never human voice

Had sounded
Upon Or where
So

in the
s

woods

that overhang
I

Our Alleghany

streams.

think

it

was

the slopes of the great Caucasus, the rivulets of Ararat
vales.

Seek the Armenian
high, that, on
its

That mountain rose

top, the winter

snow

Was
Saw

never melted, and the cottagers
the

Among
its

summer

blossoms, far below,

white peaks in August from their door.
little

One

maiden, in that cottage home,
light of heart

Dwelt with her parents,

and limb, and
there,

Bright, restless, thoughtless, flitting here

THE LITTLE PEOPLE OF THE SNOW.

Like sunshine on the uneasy ocean waves,

And

sometimes she forgot what she was
does.

bid,

As Alice
Alice.

Or

Willy, quite as

oft.

Uncle John.

And
Of

But you are older, Alice, two good years, should be wiser. Eva was the name

this

Now

young maiden, now twelve summers old. you must know that, in those early times,

10

THE LITTLE PEOPLE OF THE SNOW,

When autumn
a troop

days grew

pale, there

came

Of

childlike forms
tain top
;

from that cold

moun
air

With

trailing

garments through the

they came,

THE LITTLE PEOPLE OF THE SNOW.

n

Or walked

the ground with girded loins, and threw

Spangles of silvery frost upon the grass,

And And And
They

edged the brook with glistening parapets, built it crystal bridges, touched the pool,
turned
its

face to glass, or, rising thence,
full laps,

shook, from their

the

soft, light

snow,

And

buried the great earth, as autumn winds
forest floor in

Bury the

heaps of leaves.

And

were they, with baby brows, fair, bright locks, and voices like the sound Of steps on the crisp snow, in which they talked
beautiful race as friend with friend.

A

With man,
It

A

merry

sight

was, when, crowding round the traveller,
their heaviest snow-flakes, flung

They smote him with
Needles of

frost in handfuls at his cheeks,

And, of the

light wreaths of his

smoking breath,

Wove

a white fringe for his brown beard, and laughed

Their slender laugh to see him wink and grin

12

THE LITTLE PEOPLE OF THE SNOW.

And make
But,

grim faces as he floundered on.
the spring

when

came

on,

what

terror reigned

THE LITTLE PEOPLE OF THE SNOW.

Among
And

these Little People of the

To them

the sun

s

Snow warm beams were shafts
!

of

fire,

the soft south wind was the wind of death.

Away

they flew,

all

with a pretty scowl

Upon their childish faces, to the north, Or scampered upward to the mountain

s

top,
;

And

there defied their enemy, the Spring

Skipping and dancing on the frozen peaks,

THE LITTLE PEOPLE OP THE SNOW.

;

;

And moulding little snow-balls And rolling them, to crush her Down the steep snow-fields.
Alice.

in their palms,

flowers below,

That, too, must have been
sight to look
at.

A

merry

Uncle John.

You

are right,

But

must speak of graver matters now. Mid-winter was the time, and Eva stood,
I

Within the cottage,

all

prepared to dare

The

outer cold, with ample furry robe
fur,

Close belted round her waist, and boots of

And
Had

a broad kerchief, which her mother
closely

s

hand

drawn about her ruddy cheek.

THE LITTLE PEOPLE OF THE SNOW.

15

"

Now,

stay not long
is

abroad,"

said the

good dame,
well,

"

For sharp

the outer

air,

and,

mark me

Go

not upon the snow beyond the spot
the great linden bounds the neighboring
little
field."

Where
The

And

maiden promised, and went forth, climbed the rounded snow-swells firm with
feet,

frost

Beneath her

and

slid,

with balancing arms,

1

6

THE LITTLE PEOPLE OF THE SNOW.

Once, as up a drift She slowly rose, before her, in the way, She saw a little creature lily-cheeked,

Into the hollows.

With flowing
That gleamed

flaxen locks, and faint blue eyes,
like ice,

and robe that only seemed

more shadowy whiteness than her cheek. On a smooth bank she sat.
a
Alice.

Of

She must have been

One
The
"

of your Little People of the Snow.

Uncle John.

She was

so,

and, as

Eva now drew near
seat
;

tiny creature
come,"

bounded from her
"

And

she said,

my

pretty friend

;

to-day

We

will

And And And

have watched thee long, seen how well thou lov st to walk these drifts,
I

be playmates.

scoop their

fair sides into little cells,

carve them with quaint figures, huge-limbed men,
griffins.

Lions, and

We

will have, to-day,
fields,
seen."

A

merry ramble over these bright

And thou shalt see what thou hast never On went the pair, until they reached the bound

THE LITTLE PEOPLE OF THE SNOW.

Where

the great linden stood, set deep in snow,
"

Up

to the lower branches.
"

Here we

stop,"

Said Eva,

for

my

mother has

my
"

word
tree."

go no further than this snow-maiden Then the laughed

That

I will

:

And what

is

this ?

This fear of the pure snow, the innocent snow,

That never harmed aught living ? Thou mayst roam For leagues beyond this garden, and return
In safety
;

here the grim wolf never prowls,

1

8

THE LITTLE PEOPLE OF THE SNOW.
And And
here the eagle of our mountain-crags
in winter.
I will

Preys not

show the way

bring thee safely home.

Thy

mother, sure,
guide."

Counselled thee thus because thou hadst no

By

such smooth words was

Eva won

to break

Her promise, and went on with her new friend, Over the glistening snow and down a bank

Where

a white shelf,

wrought by the eddying wind,
the great sea,
"

Like to a billow

s crest in

Curtained an opening.

Look, we enter
fair
hill

here."

And

straight, beneath the
little

o erhanging
of snow,

fold,

Entered the

pair that

THE LITTLE PEOPLE OF THE SNOW.

Walking along a passage with white walls, And a white vault above where snow-stars shed

A

wintry twilight.

Eva moved

in

awe,

And And

held her peace, but the snow-maiden smiled,
talked and tripped along,
into that
as,

down

the way,
drift.

Deeper they went

mountainous

And
Such

now the white walls widened, and the vault

Swelled upward, like some vast cathedral dome,
as the Florentine,
s

who bore

the

name

Of heaven

Or

the

unknown

most potent angel, reared, long since, builder of that wondrous fane,

The

glory of Burgos.

Here

a garden lay,

In which the Little People of the

Snow
when
their tasks

Were wont

to take their pastime

Upon the mountain s side and in the clouds Were ended. Here they taught the silent frost To mock, in stem and spray, and leaf and flower,

20

THE LITTLE PEOPLE OF THE SNOW.

The growths
Its

of summer. Here the palm upreared white columnar trunk and spotless sheaf

Of

plume-like leaves

;

here cedars, huge as those

THE LITTLE PEOPLE OF THE SNOW.

21

I

Of Lebanon, stretched far their level boughs, Yet pale and shadowless the sturdy oak
;

Stood, with

its

huge gnarled roots of seeming

strength,

22

THE LITTLE PEOPLE OF THE SNOW.
Fast anchored^ in the glistening bank
;

light sprays

bud and bloom, Drooped by the winding walks yet all seemed wrought
myrtle, roses in their
;

Of

Of

stainless alabaster

;

up the
"

trees

Ran

the lithe jessamine, with stalk and leaf

Colorless as her flowers.

Go

softly

on,"

Said the snow-maiden

"

;

touch not, with thy hand,

The

frail

creation round thee, and beware
it

To sweep

with thy

skirts.

Now

look above.

How
With

sumptuously these bowers are lighted up shifting gleams that softly come and go
!

These are the northern

lights,

such as thou seest

In the midwinter nights, cold, wandering flames,

That

float,

with our processions, through the

air

;

And

here, within our winter palaces,

Mimic the

glorious

daybreak."

Then she

told

How, when

the wind, in the long winter nights,

Swept dell, She and her comrades guided to its place Each wandering flake, and piled them quaintly up, In shapely colonnade and glistening arch,

the light snows into the hollow

With shadowy

aisles

between, or bade them grow

THE LITTLE PEOPLE OF THE SNOW.
Beneath
their little hands, to

In gardens such as these,
Built the broad roof.
"

bowery walks and, o er them all,
to see

But thou hast yet

A

fairer

sight,"

she said, and led the
pellucid ice

way

To where
Stood

a

window of

in the wall of

snow, beside their path.
enter."

""Look,

but thou mayst not

Eva

looked,

And

lo

!

a glorious

hall,

Stripes of soft light,

from whose high vault ruddy, and delicate green,

And And

tender blue, flowed
far

downward

to the floor

around, as

if

the aerial hosts,
night, with

That march on high by

beamy

spears,

streaming banners, to that place had brought Their radiant flags to grace a festival.

And

THE LTTTLE PEOPLE OF THE SNOW.

And

in all that hall a
its

joyous multitude

Of those by v/hom
Whirled
in a

glistening walls were reared,
to silvery sounds,
ice,

merry dance

That rang from cymbals of transparent

And

ice-cups, quivering to the skilful touch

Of little fingers. Round and round they flew, As when, in spring, about a chimney-top,

A

cloud of twittering swallows, just returned,
turn and wheel again,

Wheel round and round, and

Unwinding their swift track. So rapidly Flowed the meandering stream of that fair dance,
Beneath that dome of
light.

Bright eyes that looked

From under

lily

brows, and gauzy scarfs

THE LITTLE PEOPLE OF THE SNOW.

Sparkling like snow-wreaths in the early sun,

Shot by the window

in their

mazy

whirl.

26

THE LITTLE PEOPLE OF THE SNOW.

And

there stood Eva, wondering at the sight

Of those

bright revellers and that graceful sweep
as they passed her;

Of motion

long she gazed,

And
The

listened long to the sweet sounds that thrilled
frosty
air, till

now

the encroaching cold
"

Recalled her to herself.
I

Too

long, too long

linger

here,"

she said, and then she sprang

Into the path, and with a hurried step

Followed

it

upward.

Ever by her
"

side

Her

little

guide kept pace.
fault
:

Eva bemoaned her
The dear ones

As on they went What must they think
?

in the cottage, while so long,
I

Hour

after hour,
will

stay without

I

know

That they

seek

me

far

and near, and weep
I,

To

find

me

not.

How

could

wickedly,
"

Neglect the charge they gave

me ?

As

she spoke,

THE LITTLE PEOPLE OF THE SNOW.

27

The hot

tears started to her eyes
"

;

she knelt

In the mid path.

Father
"

!

forgive this sin;

Forgive myself

I

cannot

thus she prayed,

28

THE LITTLE PEOPLE OF THE SNOW.
And
They
rose and hastened onward.

When,

at last,

reached the outer

air,

the clear north breathed

A

bitter cold,

from which she shrank with dread,
as she felt

But the snow-maiden bounded

The

cutting blast, and uttered shouts of joy,

And And

skipped, with boundless glee, from drift to

drift,

danced round Eva, as she labored up
of snow,
"

The mounds

Ah me
"

!

I feel

my

eyes
;

Grow
I

heavy,"

Eva

said

;

they swim with

sleep

cannot walk for utter weariness,
I

And
But

must

rest a

moment on

this

bank,

let it

not be

long."

As

thus she spoke,

In half-formed words, she sank on the smooth snow,

With

closing

lids.

Her guide composed
"

the robe

About her

limbs, and

said,

A pleasant

spot

THE LITTLE PEOPLE OF THE SNOW.

29

Is this to

slumber
I

in

;

on such a couch
night,

Oft have

slept

away the winter
dreams."

And had
But

the sweetest
;

So Eva
power of

slept,

slept in death

for

when

the

frost

Locks up the motions of the

living frame,

The

victim passes to the realm of Death
guide,

Through the dim porch of Sleep. The little Watching beside her, saw the hues of life
Fade from the
fair

smooth brow and rounded cheek, As fades the crimson from a morning cloud,
Till

they were white as marble, and the breath
yet

Had ceased to come and go, At first that this was death.

knew

she not

But when she marked

deep the paleness was, how motionless That once lithe form, a fear came over her.

How

She strove

to

wake the
in

sleeper,

plucked her robe,
vain
;

And
The

shouted
life

her ear, but

all in

had passed away from those young

limbs.

THE LITTLE PEOPLE OF THE SNOW.

Then
Such

the snow-maiden raised a wailing cry,
as a dweller in
all

some

lonely wild,

Sleepless through

the long

December

night,

Hears when the mournful East begins to blow. But suddenly was heard the sound of steps,
Grating on the crisp snow
;

the cottagers

THE LITTLE PEOPLE OF THE SNOW.
I

Were seeking Eva; from afar they saw The twain, and hurried toward them. As they came,
With
gentle chidings ready on their
that death-like sleep,
lips,

And marked
Of

and heard the
fell

tale

the snow-maiden, mortal anguish
their hearts,

Upon

and

bitter
"

words of grief
and cruel we,
forth alone

And blame

were uttered:

Cruel, cruel one,

To tempt our daughter

thus,

Who
And

suffered her to
cold."

wander

In this fierce

They

lifted

the dear child,

bore her

home and

chafed her tender limbs,

32

THE LTTTLE PEOPLE OF THE SNOW.
And
Back
strove,

by

all

the simple arts they knew,

To make
The
little

the chilled blood move, and win the breath

to her

bosom

;

fruitlessly

they strove.

maid was dead.

In blank despair

They stood, and gazed Should look on them.
They
said;
"without

at her
"

who never more Why die we not with
life is bitterness."

her

"

?

her

THE LITTLE PEOPLE OF THE SNOW.

33

Now came
Of all

the funeral day

;

the simple folk

that pastoral region gathered round,

share the sorrow of the cottagers. They carved a way into the mound of snow

To

To

the glen

s side,

and dug a

little

grave

In the smooth slope, and, following the bier, In long procession from the silent door,

Chanted a sad and solemn melody.

34

THE LITTLE PEOPLE OF THE SNOW.

Lay her away to rest within the ground. Yea, lay her down whose pure and innocent life
"

Was

spotless as these

snows

;

for she

was reared

In love, and passed in love

life s

pleasant spring,

And

all

that

now our

tenderest love can do
lifeless
limbs."

Is to give burial to

her

They

paused.

A

thousand slender voices round,

Like echoes

softly flung

from rock and

hill,

Took up the strain, and all the hollow air Seemed mourning for the dead for, on that The little people of the snow had come,
;

day,

THE LITTLE PEOPLE OF THE SNOW.

35

From mountain-peak, and cloud, and icy To Eva s burial. As the murmur died,
The
funeral train

hall,

renewed the solemn chant.

"Thou,

Lord, hast taken her to be with Eve,
so,

Whose
For so

name was given her. Even Thy wisdcm saw that it was best
gentle
us.

For her and

We

bring our bleeding hearts,

And
The

ask the touch of healing from
tears,

Thy

hand,

As, with submissive
love)y and

we

render back
gave."

beloved to

Him who

THE LITTLE PEOPLE OF THE SNOW.

They ceased. From shadowy

Again the
skirts of
fields,

plaintive

murmur

rose.

And
To

wide white

low-hung cloud it came, and fir-trees capped with snow,

Shivering to the sad sounds.
silence in the
little

They sank away
the funeral train

dim-seen distant woods.
;

The

grave was closed

Departed; winter wore away; the spring

THE LITTLE PEOPLE OF THE SXOW.

37

Steeped, with her quickening rains, the violet

tufts,

By

fond hands planted where the maiden

slept.

But, after

Eva

s burial,

never more

The

Little

People of the
eye, nor ever

By human

Snow were human ear
them

seen

Heard from

their lips, articulate speech again

;

For a decree went
Forever, from

forth to cut

off,

communion with mankind.

THE LITTLE PEOPLE OF THE SNOW.

The winter
Rolled

clouds, along the mountain-side,

downward toward

the vale, but no

fair

form

Leaned from

their folds, and, in the icy glens,

aged woods, under snow-loaded pines, Where once they made their haunt, was emptiness.

And

THE LITTLE PEOPLE OF THE SNOW.

39

But

ever,

when
little

the wintry days drew near,
grave, in the long night,

Around

that

Frost- wreaths were laid and tufts of silvery rime

40

THE LITTLE PEOPLE OF THE SNOW.
In shape like blades and blossoms of the
field,

As one would

scatter flowers

upon

a bier.

or

Renew ed books

ate su

-V.

,V,

mm
<i*r

i3^

M162523

953
B9I5"

THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA LIBRARY

;r^

TV.

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