Of the 8 Sonnets of a Little Girl, probably only this one, the 4th, was published in Dowson’s lifetime. It appeared in London Society, volume 50, November 1886.
SONNETS OF A LITTLE GIRL(IV)
Even as a child whose eager fingers snatch
An ocean shell and hold it to his ear,
With wondering, awe-struck eyes is hushed to catch
The murmurous music of its coil`ed sphere;
Whispers of wind and wave, soul-stirring songs
Of storm-tossed ships and all the mystery
That to the illimitable sea belongs,
Stream to him from its tiny cavity.
As such an one with reverent awe I hold
Thy tender hand, and in those pure grey eyes,
That sweet child face, those tumbled curls of gold,
And in thy smiles and loving, soft replies
I find the whole of love, hear full and low
Its mystic ocean’s tremulous ebb and flow.
Sources: poem from Poésie Schublade, in Ernest Dowson Collected Poems, Robert Kelsey Rought Thornton and Caroline Dowson (editors), Birmingham University Press, 2003; photograph from Wikimedia Commons of the statue Fillette à la coquille by Léopold Morice on the Pont Alexandre III, Paris, France.