In a valley, centuries ago,
Grew a little fern leaf, green and slender,
Veining delicate and fibers tender,
Waving when the wind crept down so low;
Rushes tall, and moss, and grass grew round it;
Playful sunbeams darted in and found it;
Drops of dew stole down by night and crowned it;
But no foot of man e'er came that way;
Earth was young and keeping holiday.
Monster fishes swam the silent main;
Stately forests waved their giant branches;
Mountains hurled their snowy avalanches;
Mammoth creatures stalked across the plain,
Nature reveled in grand mysteries.
But the little fern was not like these,
Did not number with the hills and trees,
Only grew and waved its sweet, wild way;
No one came to note it day by day.
Earth, one time, put on a frolic mood,
Heaved the rocks and changed the mighty motion
Of the strong, dread currents of the ocean;
Moved the hills and shook the haughty wood;
Crushed the little fern in soft, moist clay,
Covered it, and hid it safe away.
Oh, the long, long centuries since that day;
Oh, the changes! Oh, life's bitter cost,
Since the little useless fern was lost!
Useless? Lost? There came a thoughtful man
Searching Nature's secrets far and deep;
From a fissure in a rocky steep
He withdrew a stone, o'er which there ran
Fairy pencilings, a quaint design,
Leafage, veining, fibers, clear and fine,
And the fern's life lay in every line.
So, I think, God hides some souls away,
Sweetly to surprise us the Last Day.