by: Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888)

      LEAMING through the silent church-yard,
      Winter sunlight seemed to shed
      Golden shadows like soft blessings
      O'er a quiet little bed,
      Where a pale face lay unheeding
      Tender tears that o'er it fell;
      No sorrow now could touch the heart
      Of gentle little Nell.
      Ah, with what silent patient strength
      The frail form lying there
      Had borne its heavy load of grief,
      Of loneliness and care.
      Now, earthly burdens were laid down,
      And on the meek young face
      There shone a holier loveliness
      Than childhood's simple grace.
      Beset with sorrow, pain and fear,
      Tempted by want and sin,
      With none to guide or counsel her
      But the brave child-heart within.
      Strong in her fearless, faithful love,
      Devoted to the last,
      Unfaltering through gloom and gleam
      The little wanderer passed.
      Hand in hand they journeyed on
      Through pathways strange and wild,
      The gray-haired, feeble, sin-bowed man
      Led by the noble child.
      So through the world's dark ways she passed,
      Till o'er the church-yard sod,
      To the quiet spot where they found rest,
      Those little feet had trod.
      To that last resting-place on earth
      Kind voices bid her come,
      There her long wanderings found an end,
      And weary Nell a home.
      A home whose light and joy she was,
      Though on her spirit lay
      A solemn sense of coming change,
      That deepened day by day.
      There in the church-yard, tenderly,
      Through quiet summer hours,
      Above the poor neglected graves
      She planted fragrant flowers.
      The dim aisles of the ruined church
      Echoed the child's light tread,
      And flickering sunbeams thro' the leaves
      Shone on her as she read.
      And here where a holy silence dwelt,
      And golden shadows fell,
      When Death's mild face had looked on her,
      They laid dear happy Nell.
      Long had she wandered o'er the earth,
      One hand to the old man given,
      By the other angels led her on
      Up a sunlit path to Heaven.
      Oh! "patient, loving, noble Nell,"
      Like light from sunset skies,
      The beauty of thy sinless life
      Upon the dark world lies.
      On thy sad story, gentle child,
      Dim eyes will often dwell,
      And loving hearts will cherish long
      The memory of Nell.

"Little Nell" is reprinted from the Boston Daily Courier, March 15, 1856.




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