Columbine: Fairies and Chimneys is a collection of lovely little poems in which fairies feature prominently and chimneys are hardly mentioned at all. The poems, written nearly a hundred years ago, use a very fresh and simple language which would appeal to just about everyone, I should think, however young or old they may be.

Some of the poems are from the point of view of a little girl called Mary who can see fairies. Not only that, but the fairies who live at the bottom of her garden accept her as their queen, which is a very rare honour. Though a few of her poems are about other things, like balloons and beetles and family, most have fairies. I especially like the one comparing what her Daddy does to what fairies do.

Differences

Daddy goes a-riding in a motor painted grey,
He makes a lot of snorty noise before he gets away;
The fairies go a-riding when they wish to take their ease,
The fairies go a-riding on the backs of bumble bees.

Daddy goes a-sailing in a jolly wooden boat,
He takes a lot of tackle and his very oldest coat;
The fairies go a-sailing, and I wonder they get home,
The fairies go a-sailing on a little scrap of foam.

Daddy goes a-climbing with a knapsack and a stick,
The rocks are very hard and steep, his boots are very thick;
But the fairies go a-climbing (I’ve seen them there in crowds),
The fairies go a-climbing on the mountains in the clouds.

Other poems seem to be in an older voice, like the one about the fairy in Oxford Street and “A Fairy Went A-Marketing” – perhaps an aunt. There is something auntish about them. There is a sad one about German fairies, which seems to expect rather a lot of fairy-kind and comes to a dreadful conclusion (though not a true one, I believe). And in this one a fairy is speaking:

Invitation

If you will come and stay with us
You shall not want for ease;
We’ll swing you on a cobweb
Between the forest trees.
And twenty little singing birds
Upon a flowering thorn
Shall hush you every evening
And wake you every morn.

If you will come and stay with us
You need not miss your school,
A learned toad shall teach you,
High-perched upon his stool.
And he will tell you many things
That none but fairies know—
The way the wind goes wandering,
And how the daisies grow.

If you will come and stay with us
You shall not lack, my dear,
The finest fairy raiment,
The best of fairy cheer.
We’ll send a million glow-worms out,
And slender chains of light
Shall make a shining pathway—
Then why not come to-night?

This last one is perhaps my very favourite:

The Fairies Have Never a Penny to Spend

The fairies have never a penny to spend,
They haven’t a thing put by,
But theirs is the dower of bird and of flower
And theirs are the earth and the sky.
And though you should live in a palace of gold
Or sleep in a dried-up ditch,
You could never be poor as the fairies are,
And never as rich.

Since ever and ever the world began
They have danced like a ribbon of flame,
They have sung their song through the centuries long
And yet it is never the same.
And though you be foolish or though you be wise,
With hair of silver or gold,
You could never be young as the fairies are,
And never as old.

There are twenty-five poems altogether, and in some editions extra poems on birds are included. Click the fairy bar above to see all the poems from Fairies and Chimneys.

Advertisements