by: Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888)

      HEERFUL 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.

"Little Paul" is reprinted from the Saturday Evening Gazette, April 19, 1856.




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