COME, children, leave your playing,
And gather round my knee,
And I’ll tell you a little story:
Away across the sea,
In a meadow where the mosses
And the grass were frozen brown,
Three little maids sat milking
One day as the sun went down—
Not cows, but goats of the mountain;
And before their pails were full,
The winds, they pierced like needles
Through their gowns of heavy wool.
And as one hand, then the other,
They tried to warm in their laps,
The bitter weather froze their breath
Like fur about their caps.
And so, as they sat at their milking,
They grew as still as mice,
Save when the stiff shoes on their feet
Rattled like shoes of ice.
At last out spoke the youngest
As she blew on her finger-nails:
I have planned a plan, sweet sisters:
Let us take our milking-pails,
And go to the side of the mountain
As fast as we can go,
And heap them up to the very top
From the whitest drifts of snow;
And let us build in the meadow
Where we will milk our goats at night
A house to keep us from the cold,
With walls all silver white.
We will set the door away from the wind.
The floor we will heap with moss,
And gather little strips of ice
And shingle the roof across.
Then all the foolish maidens,
They emptied their pails on the ground,
And bounded up the mountain-side
As fast as they could bound,
And came again to the meadow
With pails heaped high with snow,
And so, through half the night, the moon
Beheld them come and go.
But when with the daybreak roses
The silver walls shone red,
The three little foolish maidens
Were lying cold and dead.
The needles of the frost had sewed
Into shrouds their woollen coats,
And with cheeks as white as the ice they lay
Among their mountain goats.