Isabella Valancy Crawford ( )

Malcolm's Katie: A Love Story - Part 5

Said the high hill, in the morning: Look on me
Behold, sweet earth, sweet sister sky, behold
The red flames on my peaks, and how my pines
Are cressets of pure gold; my quarried scars
Of black crevasse and shadow-filld canon, 
Are tracd in silver mist. Now on my breast
Hang the soft purple fringes of the night;
Close to my shoulder droops the weary moon,
Dove-pale, into the crimson surf the sun
Drives up before his prow; and blackly stands 
On my slim, loftiest peak, an eagle with
His angry eyes set sunward, while his cry
Falls fiercely back from all my ruddy heights;
And his bald eaglets, in their bare, broad nest,
Shrill pipe their angry echoes: Sun, arise, 
And show me that pale dove, beside her nest,
Which I shall strike with piercing beak and tear
With iron talons for my hungry young.
And that mild dove, secure for yet a space,
Half wakend, turns her ringd and glossy neck 
To watch dawns ruby pulsing on her breast,
And see the first bright golden motes slip down
The gnarld trunks about her leaf-deep nest,
Nor sees nor fears the eagle on the peak. 

Aye, lassie, singIll smoke my pipe the while,
And let it be a simple, bonnie song,
Such as an old, plain man can gather in
His dulling ear, and feel it slipping thro
The cold, dark, stony places of his heart. 
Yes, sing, sweet Kate, said Alfred in her ear;
I often heard you singing in my dreams
When I was far away the winter past.
So Katie on the moonlit window leand,
And in the airy silver of her voice 
Sang of the tender, blue Forget-me-not. 

Could every blossom find a voice,
   And sing a strain to me,
I know where I would place my choice,
   Which my delight should be.
I would not choose the lily tall, 
   The rose from musky grot;
But I would still my minstrel call
   The blue Forget-me-not! 

And I on mossy bank would lie
   Of brooklet, rippling clear; 
And she of the sweet azure eye,
   Close at my listning ear,
Should sing into my soul a strain
   Might never be forgot
So rich with joy, so rich with pain, 
   The blue Forget-me-not! 

Ah, evry blossom hath a tale
   With silent grace to tell,
From rose that reddens to the gale
   To modest heather bell;
But O, the flowr in evry heart
   That finds a sacred spot
To bloom, with azure leaves apart,
   Is the Forget-me-not! 

Love plucks it from the mosses green
   When parting hours are nigh,
And places it Loves palms between,
   With many an ardent sigh;
And bluely up from grassy graves 
   In some lovd churchyard spot,
It glances tenderly and waves,
   The dear Forget-me-not!

And with the faint, last cadence, stole a glance
At Malcolms softend facea bird-soft touch
Let flutter on the rugged, silver snarls 
Of his thick locks, and laid her tender lips
A second on the iron of his hand.
And did you ever meet, he sudden askd
Of Alfred, sitting pallid in the shade,
Out by yon unco place, a lada lad 
Namd Maxwell Gordon; tall, and straight, and strong;
About my size, I take it, when a lad?
And Katie at the sound of Maxs name,
First spoken for such a space by Malcolms lips,
Trembld and started, and let down her brow, 
Hiding its sudden rose on Malcolms arm.
Max Gordon? Yes. Was he a friend of yours?
No friend of mine, but of the lassies here
How comes he on? I wager hes a drone,
And never will put honey in the hive. 
No drone, said Alfred, laughing; when I left,
He and his axe were quarrling with the woods
And making forests reellove steels a lovers arm.
O, blush that stole from Katies swelling heart,
And with its hot rose brought the happy dew 
Into her hidden eyes. Aye, aye! is that the way?
Said Malcolm, smiling. Who may be his love?
In that he is a somewhat simple soul,
Why, I suppose he loves he paused, and Kate
Lookd up with two Forget-me-nots for eyes, 
With eager jewels in their centres set
Of happy, happy tears, and Alfreds heart
Became a closer marble than before.
Why I suppose he loveshis lawful wife.
His wife! his wife! said Malcolm, in amaze, 
And laid his heavy hand on Katies head;
Did you two play me false, my little lass?
Speak and Ill pardon! Katie, lassie, what?
He has a wife, said Alfred, lithe and bronzd,
An Indian woman, comelier than her kind; 
And on her knee a child with yellow locks,
And lake-like eyes of mystic Indian brown.
And so you knew him? He is doing well.
False, false! said Katie, lifting up her head.
O, you know not the Max my father means! 
He came from yonder farm-house on the slope.
Some other Maxwe speak not of the same.
He has a red mark on his temple set.
It matters nottis not the Max we know.
He wears a turquoise ring slung round his neck. 
And many wear themthey are common stones.
His mothers ringher name was Helen Wynde.
And there be many Helens who have sons.
O Katie, credit meit is the man.
O not the man! Why, you have never told 
Us of the true soul that the true Max has;
The Max we know has such a soul, I know.
How know you that, my foolish little lass?
Said Malcolm, a storm of anger bound
Within his heart, like Samson with green withs 
Belike it is the false young cur we know!
No, no, said Katie, simply, and low-voicd;
If he were traitor I must needs be false,
For long ago love melted our two hearts,
And time has moulded those two hearts in one, 
And he is true since I am faithful still.
She rose and parted, trembling as she went,
Feeling the following steel of Alfreds eyes,
And with the icy hand of scornd mistrust
Searching about the pulses of her heart 
Feeling for Maxs image in her breast.
To-night she conquers Doubt; to-morrows noon
His following soldiers sap the golden wall,
And I shall enter and possess the fort,
Said Alfred, in his mind. O Katie, child, 
Wilt thou be Nemesis, with yellow hair,
To rend my breast? for I do feel a pulse
Stir when I look into thy pure-barbd eyes
O, am I breeding that false thing, a heart,
Making my breast all tender for the fangs 
Of sharp Remorse to plunge their hot fire in?
I am a certain dullard! Let me feel
But one faint goad, fine as a needles point,
And it shall be the spur in my souls side
To urge the maddning thing across the jags 
And cliffs of life, into the soft embrace
Of that cold mistress, who is constant too,
And never flings her lovers from her arms
Not Death, for she is still a fruitful wife,
Her spouse the Dead, and their cold marriage yields 
A million children, born of mouldring flesh
So Death and Flesh live onimmortal they!
I mean the blank-eyd queen whose wassail bowl
Is brimmd from Lethe, and whose porch is red
With poppies, as it waits the panting soul 
She, she alone is great! No scepterd slave
Bowing to blind, creative giants, she;
No forces seize her in their strong, mad hands,
Nor say, Do thisbe that! Were there a God,
His only mocker, she, great Nothingness! 
And to her, close of kin, yet lover too,
Flies this large nothing that we call the soul. 

Doth true Love lonely grow?
                    Ah, no! ah, no!
Ah, were it only so
That it alone might show
Its ruddy rose upon its sapful tree,
   Then, then in dewy morn,
   Joy might his brow adorn
With Loves young rose as fair and glad as he. 

But with Loves rose doth blow,
                    Ah, woe! ah, woe!
Truth with its leaves of snow,
And Pain and Pity grow
   With Loves sweet roses on its sapful tree!
   Loves rose buds not alone,
   But still, but still doth own
A thousand blossoms cypress-hued to see! 

Isabella Valancy Crawford's other poems:
  1. A Perfect Strain
  2. An Interregnum
  3. My Ain Bonnie Lass O' the Glen
  4. Late Loved - Well Loved
  5. Malcolm's Katie: A Love Story - Part 2

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