Louisa May Alcott

Lousia May Alcott

Poet: Louisa May Alcott
Born: 29 May 1832, Pennsylvania, USA
Died: 6 March 1888, Massachusetts, USA

Louisa May Alcott was a novelist and poet. Her first critical success in writing came in the 1860s. Early in her career she used the pen name A M Bernard, under which she wrote novels involving espionage, revenge and cross-dressing for teens and young adults. An abolitionist and feminist she remained unmarried.

Alcott was educated by her father until 1848 and studied with family friends Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Theodore Parker. In Boston she worked as a domestic servant and teacher to help support her family from 1850 to 1862 and during the Civil War she worked as a nurse in Washington, DC.

Alcott was publishing poems, short stories, thrillers and juvenile takes from 1831, under the pen name Flora Fairfield. In 1862 she used the pen name AM Barnard and produced melodramas for the stages if Boston. It was Alcott’s 1863 Hospital Sketches, an account of her experiences nursing during the Civil War, confirmed her status of a serious writer. She began to publish stories under her own name in Atlantic Monthly and Lady’s Companion and after a brief trip to Europe in 1865 became the editor of a girl’s magazine, Merry’s Museum.

The success of Little Women in 1869-70 gave Alcott financial independence and created a demand for more novels. Over the final years of her life Alcott turned out a steady stream of novels and short stories, mostly aimed at young people and drawn directly from her own family life. These include Little Men (1871), Jo’s Boy’s (1886) and A Modern Mephistopheles (1877).

Alcott died from a stroke just two days after the death of her father and is buried in sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord, Massachusetts, USA.

The Rock and the Bubble by Louisa May Alcott

Oh! a bare, brown rock
Stood up in the sea,
The waves at its feet
Dancing merrily.

A little bubble
Once came sailing by,
And thus to the rock
Did it gayly cry,–

“Ho! clumsy brown stone,
Quick, make way for me:
I’m the fairest thing
That floats on the sea.

“See my rainbow-robe,
See my crown of light,
My glittering form,
So airy and bright.

“O’er the waters blue,
I’m floating away,
To dance by the shore
With the foam and spray.

“Now, make way, make way;
For the waves are strong,
And their rippling feet
Bear me fast along.”

But the great rock stood
Straight up in the sea:
It looked gravely down,
And said pleasantly–

“Little friend, you must
Go some other way;
For I have not stirred
this many a long day.

“Great billows have dashed,
And angry winds blown;
But my sturdy form
Is not overthrown.

“Nothing can stir me
In the air or sea;
Then, how can I move,
Little friend, for thee?”

Then the waves all laughed
In their voices sweet;
And the sea-birds looked,
From their rocky seat,

At the bubble gay,
Who angrily cried,
While its round cheek glowed
With a foolish pride,–

“You SHALL move for me;
And you shall not mock
At the words I say,
You ugly, rough rock.

“Be silent, wild birds!
While stare you so?
Stop laughing, rude waves,
And help me to go!

“For I am the queen
Of the ocean here,
And this cruel stone
Cannot make me fear.”

Dashing fiercely up,
With a scornful word,
Foolish Bubble broke;
But Rock never stirred.

Then said the sea-birds,
Sitting in their nests
To the little ones
Leaning on their breasts,–

“Be not like Bubble,
Headstrong, rude, and vain,
Seeking by violence
Your object to gain;

“But be like the rock,
Steadfast, true, and strong,
Yet cheerful and kind,
And firm against wrong.

“Heed, little birdlings,
And wiser you’ll be
For the lesson learned
To-day by the sea.”

©JG Farmer 2019

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