Isabella Valancy Crawford (1850-1887)
Malcolm's Katie: A Love Story
1Max plac'd a ring on little Katie's hand,
2A silver ring that he had beaten out
3From that same sacred coin--first well-priz'd wage
4For boyish labour, kept thro' many years.
5"See, Kate," he said, "I had no skill to shape
6Two hearts fast bound together, so I grav'd
7Just K. and M., for Katie and for Max."
8"But, look; you've run the lines in such a way,
9That M. is part of K., and K. of M.,"
10Said Katie, smiling. "Did you mean it thus?
11I like it better than the double hearts."
12"Well, well," he said, "but womankind is wise!
13Yet tell me, dear, will such a prophecy
14Not hurt you sometimes, when I am away?
15Will you not seek, keen ey'd, for some small break
16In those deep lines, to part the K. and M.
17For you? Nay, Kate, look down amid the globes
18Of those large lilies that our light canoe
19Divides, and see within the polish'd pool
20That small, rose face of yours,--so dear, so fair,--
21A seed of love to cleave into a rock,
22And bourgeon thence until the granite splits
23Before its subtle strength. I being gone--
24Poor soldier of the axe--to bloodless fields,
25(Inglorious battles, whether lost or won)
26That sixteen summer'd heart of yours may say:
27"I but was budding, and I did not know
28My core was crimson and my perfume sweet;
29I did not know how choice a thing I am;
30I had not seen the sun, and blind I sway'd
31To a strong wind, and thought because I sway'd,
32'Twas to the wooer of the perfect rose--
33That strong, wild wind has swept beyond my ken--
34The breeze I love sighs thro' my ruddy leaves,"
35"O, words!" said Katie, blushing, "only words!
36You build them up that I may push them down;
37If hearts are flow'rs, I know that flow'rs can root--
38Bud, blossom, die--all in the same lov'd soil;
39They do so in my garden. I have made
40Your heart my garden. If I am a bud
41And only feel unfoldment--feebly stir
42Within my leaves; wait patiently; some June,
43I'll blush a full-blown rose, and queen it, dear,
44In your lov'd garden. Tho' I be a bud,
45My roots strike deep, and torn from that dear soil
46Would shriek like mandrakes--those witch things I read
47Of in your quaint old books. Are you content?"
48"Yes--crescent-wise--but not to round, full moon.
49Look at yon hill that rounds so gently up
50From the wide lake; a lover king it looks,
51In cloth of gold, gone from his bride and queen;
52And yet delay'd, because her silver locks
53Catch in his gilded fringes; his shoulders sweep
54Into blue distance, and his gracious crest,
55Not held too high, is plum'd with maple groves;--
56One of your father's farms. A mighty man,
57Self-hewn from rock, remaining rock through all."
58"He loves me, Max," said Katie: "Yes, I know--
59A rock is cup to many a crystal spring.
60Well, he is rich; those misty, peak-roof'd barns--
61Leviathans rising from red seas of grain--
62Are full of ingots, shaped like grains of wheat.
63His flocks have golden fleeces, and his herds
64Have monarchs worshipful, as was the calf
65Aaron call'd from the furnace; and his ploughs,
66Like Genii chained, snort o'er his mighty fields.
67He has a voice in Council and in Church--"
68"He work'd for all," said Katie, somewhat pain'd.
69"Aye, so, dear love, he did; I heard him tell
70How the first field upon his farm was ploughed.
71He and his brother Reuben, stalwart lads,
72Yok'd themselves, side by side, to the new plough;
73Their weaker father, in the grey of life
74(But rather the wan age of poverty
75Than many winters), in large, gnarl'd hands
76The plunging handles held; with mighty strains
77They drew the ripping beak through knotted sod,
78Thro' tortuous lanes of blacken'd, smoking stumps;
79And past great flaming brush heaps, sending out
80Fierce summers, beating on their swollen brows.
81O, such a battle! had we heard of serfs
82Driven to like hot conflict with the soil,
83Armies had march'd and navies swiftly sail'd
84To burst their gyves. But here's the little point--
85The polish'd di'mond pivot on which spins
86The wheel of Difference--they OWN'D the rugged soil,
87And fought for love--dear love of wealth and pow'r,
88And honest ease and fair esteem of men;
89One's blood heats at it!" "Yet you said such fields
90Were all inglorious," Katie, wondering, said.
91"Inglorious? yes; they make no promises
92Of Star or Garter, or the thundering guns
93That tell the earth her warriors are dead.
94Inglorious! aye, the battle done and won
95Means not--a throne propp'd up with bleaching bones;
96A country sav'd with smoking seas of blood;
97A flag torn from the foe with wounds and death;
98Or Commerce, with her housewife foot upon
99Colossal bridge of slaughter'd savages,
100The Cross laid on her brawny shoulder, and
101In one sly, mighty hand her reeking sword;
102And in the other all the woven cheats
103From her dishonest looms. Nay, none of these.
104It means--four walls, perhaps a lowly roof;
105Kine in a peaceful pasture; modest fields;
106A man and woman standing hand in hand
107In hale old age, who, looking o'er the land,
108Say: `Thank the Lord, it all is mine and thine!'
109It means, to such thew'd warriors of the Axe
110As your own father;--well, it means, sweet Kate,
111Outspreading circles of increasing gold,
112A name of weight; one little daughter heir,
113Who must not wed the owner of an axe,
114Who owns naught else but some dim, dusky woods
115In a far land; two arms indifferent strong--"
116"And Katie's heart," said Katie, with a smile;
117For yet she stood on that smooth, violet plain,
118Where nothing shades the sun; nor quite believed
119Those blue peaks closing in were aught but mist
120Which the gay sun could scatter with a glance.
121For Max, he late had touch'd their stones, but yet
122He saw them seam'd with gold and precious ores,
123Rich with hill flow'rs and musical with rills.
124"Or that same bud that will be Katie's heart,
125Against the time your deep, dim woods are clear'd,
126And I have wrought my father to relent."
127"How will you move him, sweet? why, he will rage
128And fume and anger, striding o'er his fields,
129Until the last-bought king of herds lets down
130His lordly front, and rumbling thunder from
131His polish'd chest, returns his chiding tones.
132How will you move him, Katie, tell me how?"
133"I'll kiss him and keep still--that way is sure,"
134Said Katie, smiling. "I have often tried."
135"God speed the kiss," said Max, and Katie sigh'd,
136With pray'rful palms close seal'd, "God speed the axe!"
137O, light canoe, where dost thou glide?
138Below thee gleams no silver'd tide,
139But concave heaven's chiefest pride.
140Above thee burns Eve's rosy bar;
141Below thee throbs her darling star;
142Deep 'neath thy keel her round worlds are!
143Above, below, O sweet surprise,
144To gladden happy lover's eyes;
145No earth, no wave--all jewell'd skies!
146The South Wind laid his moccasins aside,
147Broke his gay calumet of flow'rs, and cast
148His useless wampum, beaded with cool dews,
149Far from him, northward; his long, ruddy spear
150Flung sunward, whence it came, and his soft locks
151Of warm, fine haze grew silver as the birch.
152His wigwam of green leaves began to shake;
153The crackling rice-beds scolded harsh like squaws;
154The small ponds pouted up their silver lips;
155The great lakes ey'd the mountains, whisper'd "Ugh!"
156"Are ye so tall, O chiefs? Not taller than
157Our plumes can reach." And rose a little way,
158As panthers stretch to try their velvet limbs,
159And then retreat to purr and bide their time.
160At morn the sharp breath of the night arose
161From the wide prairies, in deep-struggling seas,
162In rolling breakers, bursting to the sky;
163In tumbling surfs, all yellow'd faintly thro'
164With the low sun--in mad, conflicting crests,
165Voic'd with low thunder from the hairy throats
166Of the mist-buried herds; and for a man
167To stand amid the cloudy roll and moil,
168The phantom waters breaking overhead,
169Shades of vex'd billows bursting on his breast,
170Torn caves of mist wall'd with a sudden gold,
171Reseal'd as swift as seen--broad, shaggy fronts,
172Fire-ey'd and tossing on impatient horns
173The wave impalpable--was but to think
174A dream of phantoms held him as he stood.
175The late, last thunders of the summer crash'd,
176Where shrieked great eagles, lords of naked cliffs.
177The pulseless forest, lock'd and interlock'd
178So closely, bough with bough, and leaf with leaf,
179So serf'd by its own wealth, that while from high
180The moons of summer kiss'd its green-gloss'd locks;
181And round its knees the merry West Wind danc'd;
182And round its ring, compacted emerald;
183The south wind crept on moccasins of flame;
184And the red fingers of th' impatient sun
185Pluck'd at its outmost fringes--its dim veins
186Beat with no life--its deep and dusky heart,
187In a deep trance of shadow, felt no throb
188To such soft wooing answer: thro' its dream
189Brown rivers of deep waters sunless stole;
190Small creeks sprang from its mosses, and amaz'd,
191Like children in a wigwam curtain'd close
192Above the great, dead heart of some red chief,
193Slipp'd on soft feet, swift stealing through the gloom,
194Eager for light and for the frolic winds.
195In this shrill moon the scouts of winter ran
196From the ice-belted north, and whistling shafts
197Struck maple and struck sumach--and a blaze
198Ran swift from leaf to leaf, from bough to bough;
199Till round the forest flash'd a belt of flame
200And inward lick'd its tongues of red and gold
201To the deep, tranied, inmost heart of all.
202Rous'd the still heart--but all too late, too late.
203Too late, the branches welded fast with leaves,
204Toss'd, loosen'd, to the winds--too late the sun
205Pour'd his last vigor to the deep, dark cells
206Of the dim wood. The keen, two-bladed Moon
207Of Falling Leaves roll'd up on crested mists
208And where the lush, rank boughs had foil'd the sun
209In his red prime, her pale, sharp fingers crept
210After the wind and felt about the moss,
211And seem'd to pluck from shrinking twig and stem
212The burning leaves--while groan'd the shudd'ring wood.
213Who journey'd where the prairies made a pause,
214Saw burnish'd ramparts flaming in the sun,
215With beacon fires, tall on their rustling walls.
216And when the vast, horn'd herds at sunset drew
217Their sullen masses into one black cloud,
218Rolling thund'rous o'er the quick pulsating plain,
219They seem'd to sweep between two fierce red suns
220Which, hunter-wise, shot at their glaring balls
221Keen shafts, with scarlet feathers and gold barbs.
222By round, small lakes with thinner forests fring'd,
223More jocund woods that sung about the feet
224And crept along the shoulders of great cliffs;
225The warrior stags, with does and tripping fawns,
226Like shadows black upon the throbbing mist
227Of Evening's rose, flash'd thro' the singing woods--
228Nor tim'rous, sniff'd the spicy, cone-breath'd air;
229For never had the patriarch of the herd
230Seen limn'd against the farthest rim of light
231Of the low-dipping sky, the plume or bow
232Of the red hunter; nor when stoop'd to drink,
233Had from the rustling rice-beds heard the shaft
234Of the still hunter hidden in its spears;
235His bark canoe close-knotted in its bronze,
236His form as stirless as the brooding air,
237His dusky eyes, too, fix'd, unwinking, fires;
238His bow-string tighten'd till it subtly sang
239To the long throbs, and leaping pulse that roll'd
240And beat within his knotted, naked breast.
241There came a morn. The Moon of Falling Leaves,
242With her twin silver blades had only hung
243Above the low set cedars of the swamp
244For one brief quarter, when the sun arose
245Lusty with light and full of summer heat,
246And pointing with his arrows at the blue,
247Clos'd, wigwam curtains of the sleeping moon,
248Laugh'd with the noise of arching cataracts,
249And with the dove-like cooing of the woods,
250And with the shrill cry of the diving loon
251And with the wash of saltless, rounded seas,
252And mock'd the white moon of the Falling Leaves:
253"Esa! esa! shame upon you, Pale Face!
254"Shame upon you, moon of evil witches!
255Have you kill'd the happy, laughing Summer?
256Have you slain the mother of the Flowers
257With your icy spells of might and magic?
258Have you laid her dead within my arms?
259Wrapp'd her, mocking, in a rainbow blanket?
260Drown'd her in the frost mist of your anger?
261She is gone a little way before me;
262Gone an arrow's flight beyond my vision;
263She will turn again and come to meet me,
264With the ghosts of all the slain flowers,
265In a blue mist round her shining tresses;
266In a blue smoke in her naked forests--
267She will linger, kissing all the branches,
268She will linger, touching all the places,
269Bare and naked, with her golden fingers
270Saying, 'Sleep, and dream of me, my children;
271"'Dream of me, the mystic Indian Summer;
272"'I, who, slain by the cold Moon of Terror,
273"'Can return across the path of Spirits,
274"'Bearing still my heart of love and fire;
275"'Looking with my eyes of warmth and splendour;
276"'Whisp'ring lowly thro' your sleep of sunshine.
277"'I, the laughing Summer, am not turn'd
278"'Into dry dust, whirling on the prairies,--
279"'Into red clay, crush'd beneath the snowdrifts.
280"'I am still the mother of sweet flowers
281"'Growing but an arrow's flight beyond you--
282"'In the Happy Hunting Ground--the quiver
283"'Of great Manitou, where all the arrows
284"'He has shot from his great bow of Pow'r,
285"'With its clear, bright, singing cord of Wisdom,
286"'Are re-gather'd, plum'd again, and brighten'd,
287"'And shot out, re-barb'd with Love and Wisdom;
288"'Always shot, and evermore returning.
289"'Sleep, my children, smiling in your heart-seeds
290"'At the spirit words of Indian Summer!'
291"'Thus, O Moon of Falling Leaves, I mock you!
292"'Have you slain my gold-ey'd squaw, the Summer?"
293The mighty morn strode laughing up the land,
294And Max, the labourer and the lover, stood
295Within the forest's edge, beside a tree;
296The mossy king of all the woody tribes,
297Whose clatt'ring branches rattl'd, shuddering,
298As the bright axe cleav'd moon-like thro' the air,
299Waking strange thunders, rousing echoes link'd
300From the full, lion-throated roar, to sighs
301Stealing on dove-wings thro' the distant aisles.
302Swift fell the axe, swift follow'd roar on roar,
303Till the bare woodland bellow'd in its rage,
304As the first-slain slow toppl'd to his fall.
305"O King of Desolation, art thou dead?"
306Thought Max, and laughing, heart and lips, leap'd on
307The vast, prone trunk. "And have I slain a King?
308Above his ashes will I build my house--
309No slave beneath its pillars, but--a King!"
310Max wrought alone, but for a half-breed lad,
311With tough, lithe sinews and deep Indian eyes,
312Lit with a Gallic sparkle. Max, the lover, found
313The labourer's arms grow mightier day by day--
314More iron-welded as he slew the trees;
315And with the constant yearning of his heart
316Towards little Kate, part of a world away,
317His young soul grew and shew'd a virile front,
318Full-muscl'd and large statur'd, like his flesh.
319Soon the great heaps of brush were builded high,
320And like a victor, Max made pause to clear
321His battle-field, high strewn with tangl'd dead.
322Then roar'd the crackling mountains, and their fires
323Met in high heaven, clasping flame with flame.
324The thin winds swept a cosmos of red sparks
325Across the bleak, midnight sky; and the sun
326Walk'd pale behind the resinous, black smoke.
327And Max car'd little for the blotted sun,
328And nothing for the startl'd, outshone stars;
329For Love, once set within a lover's breast,
330Has its own Sun--its own peculiar sky,
331All one great daffodil--on which do lie
332The sun, the moon, the stars--all seen at once,
333And never setting; but all shining straight
334Into the faces of the trinity,--
335The one belov'd, the lover, and sweet Love!
336It was not all his own, the axe-stirr'd waste.
337In these new days men spread about the earth,
338With wings at heel--and now the settler hears,
339While yet his axe rings on the primal woods,
340The shrieks of engines rushing o'er the wastes;
341Nor parts his kind to hew his fortunes out.
342And as one drop glides down the unknown rock
343And the bright-threaded stream leaps after it,
344With welded billions, so the settler finds
345His solitary footsteps beaten out,
346With the quick rush of panting, human waves
347Upheav'd by throbs of angry poverty,
348And driven by keen blasts of hunger, from
349Their native strands--so stern, so dark, so dear!
350O, then, to see the troubl'd, groaning waves,
351Throb down to peace in kindly, valley beds;
352Their turbid bosoms clearing in the calm
353Of sun-ey'd Plenty--till the stars and moon,
354The blessed sun himself, has leave to shine
355And laugh in their dark hearts ! So shanties grew
356Other than his amid the blacken'd stumps;
357And children ran with little twigs and leaves
358And flung them, shouting, on the forest pyres,
359There burn'd the forest kings--and in the glow
360Paus'd men and women when the day was done.
361There the lean weaver ground anew his axe,
362Nor backward look'd upon the vanish'd loom,
363But forward to the ploughing of his fields;
364And to the rose of Plenty in the cheeks
365Of wife and children--nor heeded much the pangs
366Of the rous'd muscles tuning to new work.
367The pallid clerk look'd on his blister'd palms
368And sigh'd and smil'd, but girded up his loins
369And found new vigour as he felt new hope.
370The lab'rer with train'd muscles, grim and grave,
371Look'd at the ground and wonder'd in his soul,
372What joyous anguish stirr'd his darken'd heart,
373At the mere look of the familiar soil,
374And found his answer in the words--"Mine own!"
375Then came smooth-coated men, with eager eyes,
376And talk'd of steamers on the cliff-bound lakes;
377And iron tracks across the prairie lands;
378And mills to crush the quartz of wealthy hills;
379And mills to saw the great, wide-arm'd trees;
380And mills to grind the singing stream of grain;
381And with such busy clamour mingled still
382The throbbing music of the bold, bright Axe--
383The steel tongue of the Present, and the wail
384Of falling forests--voices of the Past.
385Max, social-soul'd, and with his practised thews,
386Was happy, boy-like, thinking much of Kate,
387And speaking of her to the women-folk;
388Who, mostly, happy in new honeymoons
389Of hope themselves, were ready still to hear
390The thrice-told tale of Katie's sunny eyes
391And Katie's yellow hair, and household ways:
392And heard so often, "There shall stand our home--
393"On yonder slope, with vines about the door!"
394That the good wives were almost made to see
395The snowy walls, deep porches, and the gleam
396Of Katie's garments flitting through the rooms;
397And the black slope all bristling with burn'd stumps
398Was known amongst them all as "Max's House."
399O, Love builds on the azure sea,
400 And Love builds on the golden sand;
401And Love builds on the rose-wing'd cloud,
402 And sometimes Love builds on the land.
403O, if Love build on sparkling sea--
404 And if Love build on golden strand--
405And if Love build on rosy cloud--
406 To Love these are the solid land.
407O, Love will build his lily walls,
408 And Love his pearly roof will rear,--
409On cloud or land, or mist or sea--
410 Love's solid land is everywhere!
411The great farm house of Malcolm Graem stood
412Square shoulder'd and peak roof'd upon a hill,
413With many windows looking everywhere;
414So that no distant meadow might lie hid,
415Nor corn-field hide its gold--nor lowing herd
416Browse in far pastures, out of Malcolm's ken.
417He lov'd to sit, grim, grey, and somewhat stern,
418And thro' the smoke-clouds from his short clay pipe
419Look out upon his riches; while his thoughts
420Swung back and forth between the bleak, stern past,
421And the near future, for his life had come
422To that close balance, when, a pendulum,
423The memory swings between the "Then" and "Now";
424His seldom speech ran thus two diff'rent ways:
425"When I was but a laddie, thus I did":
426Or, "Katie, in the Fall I'll see to build
427"Such fences or such sheds about the place;
428"And next year, please the Lord, another barn."
429Katie's gay garden foam'd about the walls,
430'`Leagur'd the prim-cut modern sills, and rush'd
431Up the stone walls--and broke on the peak'd roof.
432And Katie's lawn was like a Poet's sward,
433Velvet and sheer and di'monded with dew;
434For such as win their wealth most aptly take
435Smooth, urban ways and blend them with their own;
436And Katie's dainty raiment was as fine
437As the smooth, silken petals of the rose;
438And her light feet, her nimble mind and voice,
439In city schools had learn'd the city's ways,
440And grafts upon the healthy, lovely vine
441They shone, eternal blossoms 'mid the fruit.
442For Katie had her sceptre in her hand
443And wielded it right queenly there and here,
444In dairy, store-room, kitchen--ev'ry spot
445Where women's ways were needed on the place.
446And Malcolm took her through his mighty fields,
447And taught her lore about the change of crops:
448And how to see a handsome furrow plough'd;
449And how to choose the cattle for the mart:
450And how to know a fair day's work when done;
451And where to plant young orchards; for he said,
452"God sent a lassie, but I need a son--
453"Bethankit for His mercies all the same."
454And Katie, when he said it, thought of Max--
455Who had been gone two winters and two springs,
456And sigh'd, and thought, "Would he not be your son?"
457But all in silence, for she had too much
458Of the firm will of Malcolm in her soul
459To think of shaking that deep-rooted rock;
460But hop'd the crystal current of his love
461For his one child, increasing day by day,
462Might fret with silver lip, until it wore
463Such channels thro' the rock, that some slight stroke
464Of circumstance might crumble down the stone.
465The wooer, too, had come, Max prophesied;
466Reputed wealthy; with the azure eyes
467And Saxon-gilded locks--the fair, clear face,
468And stalwart form that most women love,
469And with the jewels of some virtues set
470On his broad brow. With fires within his soul
471He had the wizard skill to fetter down
472To that mere pink, poetic, nameless glow,
473That need not fright a flake of snow away--
474But, if unloos'd, could melt an adverse rock
475Marrow'd with iron, frowning in his way.
476And Malcolm balanc'd him by day and night;
477And with his grey-ey'd shrewdness partly saw
478He was not one for Kate; but let him come,
479And in chance moments thought: "Well, let it be--
480"They make a bonnie pair--he knows the ways
481"Of men and things: can hold the gear I give,
482"And, if the lassie wills it, let it be."
483And then, upstarting from his midnight sleep,
484With hair erect and sweat upon his brow,
485Such as no labor e'er had beaded there;
486Would cry aloud, wide-staring thro' the dark--
487"Nay, nay; she shall not wed him--rest in peace."
488Then fully waking, grimly laugh and say:
489"Why did I speak and answer when none spake?"
490But still lie staring, wakeful, through the shades;
491List'ning to the silence, and beating still
492The ball of Alfred's merits to and fro--
493Saying, between the silent arguments:
494"But would the mother like it, could she know?
495"I would there was a way to ring a lad
496"Like silver coin, and so find out the true;
497"But Kate shall say him 'Nay' or say him 'Yea'
498"At her own will." And Katie said him "Nay,"
499In all the maiden, speechless, gentle ways
500A woman has. But Alfred only laugh'd
501To his own soul, and said in his wall'd mind:
502'O, Kate, were I a lover, I might feel
503"Despair flap o'er my hopes with raven wings;
504""Because thy love is giv'n to other love.
505"And did I love--unless I gain'd thy love,
506"I would disdain the golden hair, sweet lips,
507"Air-blown form and true violet eyes;
508"Nor crave the beauteous lamp without the flame;
509"Which in itself would light a charnel house.
510"Unlov'd and loving, I would find the cure
511"Of Love's despair in nursing Love's disdain--
512"Disdain of lesser treasure than the whole.
513"One cares not much to place against the wheel
514"A diamond lacking flame--nor loves to pluck
515"A rose with all its perfume cast abroad
516"To the bosom of the gale. Not I, in truth!
517"If all man's days are three score years and ten,
518"He needs must waste them not, but nimbly seize
519"The bright consummate blossom that his will
520"Calls for most loudly. Gone, long gone the days
521"When Love within my soul for ever stretch'd
522"Fierce hands of flame, and here and there I found
523"A blossom fitted for him--all up-fill'd
524"With love as with clear dew--they had their hour
525"And burn'd to ashes with him, as he droop'd
526"In his own ruby fires. No Phnix he,
527"To rise again because of Katie's eyes,
528"On dewy wings, from ashes such as his!
529"But now, another Passion bids me forth,
530"To crown him with the fairest I can find,
531"And makes me lover--not of Katie's face,
532"But of her father's riches! O, high fool,
533"Who feels the faintest pulsing of a wish
534"And fails to feed it into lordly life!
535"So that, when stumbling back to Mother Earth,
536"His freezing lip may curl in cold disdain
537"Of those poor, blighted fools who starward stare
538"For that fruition, nipp'd and scanted here.
539"And, while the clay, o'ermasters all his blood--
540"And he can feel the dust knit with his flesh--
541"He yet can say to them, 'Be ye content;
542"'I tasted perfect fruitage thro' my life,
543"'Lighted all lamps of passion, till the oil
544"'Fail'd from their wicks: and now, O now, I know
545"'There is no Immortality could give
546"'Such boon as this--to simply cease to be!
547"'There lies your Heaven, O ye dreaming slaves,
548"'If ye would only live to make it so;
549"'Nor paint upon the blue skies lying shades
550"'Of--what is not. Wise, wise and strong the man
551"'Who poisons that fond haunter of the mind,
552"'Craving for a hereafter with deep draughts
553"'Of wild delights--so fiery, fierce, and strong,
554"'That when their dregs are deeply, deeply drain'd,
555"'What once was blindly crav'd of purblind Chance,
556"'Life, life eternal--throbbing thro' all space,
557"'Is strongly loath'd--and with his face in dust,
558"'Man loves his only Heav'n--six feet of Earth!'
559"So, Katie, tho' your blue eyes say me 'Nay,'
560"My pangs of love for gold must needs be fed,
561"And shall be, Katie, if I know my mind."
562Events were winds close nest'ling in the sails
563Of Alfred's bark, all blowing him direct
564To his wish'd harbour. On a certain day,
565All set about with roses and with fire;
566One of three days of heat which frequent slip,
567Like triple rubies, in between the sweet,
568Mild, emerald days of summer, Katie went,
569Drawn by a yearning for the ice-pale blooms,
570Natant and shining--firing all the bay
571With angel fires built up of snow and gold.
572She found the bay close pack'd with groaning logs,
573Prison'd between great arms of close-hing'd wood,
574All cut from Malcolm's forests in the west,
575And floated hither to his noisy mills;
576And all stamp'd with the potent "G." and "M.,"
577Which much he lov'd to see upon his goods,
578The silent courtiers owning him their king.
579Out clear beyond the rustling ricebeds sang,
580And the cool lilies starr'd the shadow'd wave.
581'This is a day for lily-love," said Kate,
582While she made bare the lilies of her feet
583And sang a lily-song that Max had made,
584That spoke of lilies--always meaning Kate.
585"White Lady of the silver'd lakes,
586Chaste Goddess of the sweet, still shrines,
587The jocund river fitful makes,
588By sudden, deep gloom'd brakes,
589Close shelter'd by close weft and woof of vine,
590Spilling a shadow gloomy-rich as wine,
591Into the silver throne where thou dost sit,
592Thy silken leaves all dusky round thee knit!
593"Mild soul of the unsalted wave!
594White bosom holding golden fire!
595Deep as some ocean-hidden cave
596Are fix'd the roots of thy desire,
597Thro' limpid currents stealing up,
598And rounding to the pearly cup
599Thou cost desire,
600With all thy trembling heart of sinless fire,
601But to be fill'd
602With dew distill'd
603From clear, fond skies, that in their gloom
604Hold, floating high, thy sister moon,
605Pale chalice of a sweet perfume,
606Whiter-breasted than a dove--
607To thee the dew is--love!"
608Kate bared her little feet, and pois'd herself
609On the first log close grating on the shore;
610And with bright eyes of laughter, and wild hair--
611A flying wind of gold--from log to log
612Sped, laughing as they wallow'd in her track,
613Like brown-scal'd monsters rolling, as her foot
614Spurn'd each in turn with its rose-white sole.
615A little island, out in middlewave,
616With its green shoulder held the great drive brac'd
617Between it and the mainland; here it was
618The silver lilies drew her with white smiles;
619And as she touch'd the last great log of all,
620It reel'd, upstarting, like a column brac'd
621A second on the wave--and when it plung'd
622Rolling upon the froth and sudden foam,
623Katie had vanish'd, and with angry grind
624The vast logs roll'd together,--nor a lock
625Of drifting, yellow hair--an upflung hand,
626Told where the rich man's chiefest treasure sank
627Under his wooden wealth. But Alfred, laid
628With pipe and book upon the shady marge
629Of the cool isle, saw all, and seeing hurl'd
630Himself, and hardly knew it, on the logs;
631By happy chance a shallow lapp'd the isle
632On this green bank; and when his iron arms
633Dash'd the bark'd monsters, as frail stems of rice,
634A little space apart, the soft, slow tide
635But reach'd his chest, and in a flash he saw
636Kate's yellow hair, and by it drew her up,
637And lifting her aloft, cried out, "O, Kate!"
638And once again said, "Katie! is she dead?"
639For like the lilies broken by the rough
640And sudden riot of the armor'd logs,
641Kate lay upon his hands; and now the logs
642Clos'd in upon him, nipping his great chest,
643Nor could he move to push them off again
644For Katie in his arms. "And now," he said,
645"If none should come, and any wind arise
646"To weld these woody monsters 'gainst the isle,
647"I shall be crack'd like any broken twig;
648"And as it is, I know not if I die,
649"For I am hurt--aye, sorely, sorely hurt!"
650Then look'd on Katie's lily face, and said,
651"Dead, dead or living? Why, an even chance.
652"O lovely bubble on a troubl'd sea,
653"I would not thou should'st lose thyself again
654"In the black ocean whence thy life emerg'd,
655"But skyward steal on gales as soft as love,
656"And hang in some bright rainbow overhead,
657"If only such bright rainbow spann'd the earth."
658Then shouted loudly, till the silent air
659Rous'd like a frighten'd bird, and on its wings
660Caught up his cry and bore it to the farm.
661There Malcolm, leaping from his noontide sleep.
662Upstarted as at midnight, crying out,
663"She shall not wed him--rest you, wife, in peace!"
664They found him, Alfred, haggard-ey'd and faint,
665But holding Katie ever towards the sun,
666Unhurt, and waking in the fervent heat.
667And now it came that Alfred, being sick
668Of his sharp hurts and tended by them both,
669With what was like to love, being born of thanks,
670Had choice of hours most politic to woo,
671And used his deed as one might use the sun,
672To ripen unmellow'd fruit; and from the core
673Of Katie's gratitude hop'd yet to nurse
674A flow'r all to his liking--Katie's love.
675But Katie's mind was like the plain, broad shield
676Of a table di'mond, nor had a score of sides;
677And in its shield, so precious and so plain,
678Was cut, thro' all its clear depths--Max's name.
679And so she said him "Nay" at last, in words
680Of such true sounding silver that he knew
681He might not win her at the present hour,
682But smil'd and thought--"I go, and come again!
683"Then shall we see. Our three-score years and ten
684"Are mines of treasure, if we hew them deep,
685"Nor stop too long in choosing out our tools!"
686From his far wigwam sprang the strong North Wind
687And rush'd with war-cry down the steep ravines,
688And wrestl'd with the giants of the woods;
689And with his ice-club beat the swelling crests
690Of the deep watercourses into death,
691And with his chill foot froze the whirling leaves
692Of dun and gold and fire in icy banks;
693And smote the tall reeds to the harden'd earth;
694And sent his whistling arrows o'er the plains,
695Scatt'ring the ling'ring herds--and sudden paus'd
696When he had frozen all the running streams,
697And hunted with his war-cry all the things
698That breath'd about the woods, or roam'd the bleak
699Bare prairies swelling to the mournful sky.
700"White squaw," he shouted, troubl'd in his soul,
701"I slew the dead, wrestl'd with naked chiefs
702"Unplum'd before, scalped of their leafy plumes;
703"I bound sick rivers in cold thongs of death,
704"And shot my arrows over swooning plains,
705"Bright with the Paint of death--and lean and bare.
706"And all the braves of my loud tribe will mock
707"And point at me--when our great chief, the Sun,
708"Relights his Council fire in the moon
709"Of Budding Leaves:" "Ugh, ugh! he is a brave!
710"'He fights with squaws and takes the scalps of babes!'
711"And the least wind will blow his calumet--
712"Fill'd with the breath of smallest flow'rs--across
713"The war-paint on my face, and pointing with
714"His small, bright pipe, that never moved a spear
715"Of bearded rice, cry, 'Ugh! he slays the dead!'
716"O, my white squaw, come from thy wigwam grey,
717"Spread thy white blanket on the twice-slain dead,
718"And hide them, ere the waking of the Sun!"
719High grew the snow beneath the low-hung sky,
720And all was silent in the Wilderness;
721In trance of stillness Nature heard her God
722Rebuilding her spent fires, and veil'd her face
723While the Great Worker brooded o'er His work.
724"Bite deep and wide, O Axe, the tree,
725What doth thy bold voice promise me?"
726"I promise thee all joyous things,
727That furnish forth the lives of kings!
728"For ev'ry silver ringing blow,
729Cities and palaces shall grow!"
730"Bite deep and wide, O Axe, the tree,
731Tell wider prophecies to me."
732"When rust hath gnaw 'd me deep and red,
733A nation strong shall lift his head!
734"His crown the very Heav'ns shall smite,
735Æons shall build him in his might!"
736"Bite deep and wide, O Axe, the tree;
737Bright Seer, help on thy prophecy!"
738Max smote the snow-weigh'd tree and lightly laugh'd.
739"See, friend," he cried to one that look'd and smil'd,
740"My axe and I--we do immortal tasks--
741We build up nations--this my axe and I!"
742"O," said the other with a cold, short smile,
743"Nations are not immortal! Is there now
744"One nation thron'd upon the sphere of earth,
745"That walk'd with the first Gods, and saw
746"The budding world untold its slow-leav'd flow'r?
747"Nay; it is hardly theirs to leave behind
748"Ruins so eloquent that the hoary sage
749"Can lay his hand upon their stones, and say:
750"These once were thrones!' The lean, lank lion peals
751"His midnight thunders over lone, red plains,
752"Long-ridg'd and crested on their dusty waves,
753"With fires from moons red-hearted as the sun;
754"And deep re-thunders all the earth to him.
755"For, far beneath the flame-fleck'd, shifting sands,
756"Below the roots of palms, and under stones
757"Of younger ruins, thrones, tow'rs and cities
758"Honeycomb the earth. The high, solemn walls
759"Of hoary ruins--their foundings all unknown
760"(But to the round-ey'd worlds that walk
761"In the blank paths of Space and blanker Chance).
762"At whose stones young mountains wonder, and the seas'
763"New-silv'ring, deep-set valleys pause and gaze;
764"Are rear'd upon old shrines, whose very Gods
765"Were dreams to the shrine-builders, of a time
766"They caught in far-off flashes--as the child
767"Half thinks he can remember how one came
768"And took him in her hand and shew'd him that
769"He thinks, she call'd the sun. Proud ships rear high
770"On ancient billows that have torn the roots
771"Of cliffs, and bitten at the golden lips
772"Of firm, sleek beaches, till they conquer'd all,
773"And sow'd the reeling earth with salted waves.
774"Wrecks plunge, prow foremost, down still, solemn slopes,
775"And bring their dead crews to as dead a quay;
776"Some city built before that ocean grew,
777"By silver drops from many a floating cloud,
778"By icebergs bellowing in their shoes of death,
779"By lesser seas toss'd from their rocking cups,
780"And leaping each to each; by dew-drops flung
781"From painted sprays, whose weird leaves and flow'rs
782"Are moulded for new dwellers on the earth,
783"Printed in hearts of mountains and of mines.
784"Nations immortal? where the well-trimm'd lamps
785"Of long-past ages, when Time seem'd to pause
786"On smooth, dust-blotted graves that, like the tombs
787"Of monarchs, held dead bones and sparkling gems?
788"She saw no glimmer on the hideous ring
789"Of the black clouds; no stream of sharp, clear light
790"From those great torches, pass'd into the black
791"Of deep oblivion. She seem'd to watch, but she
792"Forgot her long-dead nations. When she stirr'd
793"Her vast limbs in the dawn that forc'd its fire
794"Up the black East, and saw the imperious red
795"Burst over virgin dews and budding flow'rs,
796"She still forgot her molder'd thrones and kings,
797"Her sages and their torches, and their Gods,
798"And said, 'This is my birth--my primal day!'
799"She dream'd new Gods, and rear'd them other shrines,
800"Planted young nations, smote a feeble flame
801"From sunless flint, re-lit the torch of mind;
802"Again she hung her cities on the hills,
803"Built her rich towers, crown'd her kings again,
804"And with the sunlight on her awful wings
805"Swept round the flow'ry cestus of the earth,
806"And said, 'I build for Immortality!'
807"Her vast hand rear'd her tow'rs, her shrines, her thrones;
808"The ceaseless sweep of her tremendous wings
809"Still beat them down and swept their dust abroad;
810"Her iron finger wrote on mountain sides
811"Her deeds and prowess--and her own soft plume
812"Wore down the hills! Again drew darkly on
813"A night of deep forgetfulness; once more
814"Time seem'd to pause upon forgotten graves--
815"Once more a young dawn stole into her eyes--
816"Again her broad wings stirr'd, and fresh clear airs,
817"Blew the great clouds apart;--again Time said,
818"'This is my birth--my deeds and handiwork
819"'Shall be immortal.' Thus and so dream on
820"Fool'd nations, and thus dream their dullard sons.
821"Naught is immortal save immortal--Death!"
822Max paus'd and smil'd: "O, preach such gospel, friend,
823"To all but lovers who most truly love:
824"For them, their gold-wrought scripture glibly reads,
825"All else is mortal but immortal--Love!"
826"Fools! fools!" his friend said, "most immortal fools!--
827"But pardon, pardon, for, perchance, you love?"
828"Yes," said Max, proudly smiling, "thus do I
829"Possess the world and feel eternity!"
830Dark laughter blacken'd in the other's eyes:
831"Eternity! why, did such Iris arch
832"Enring our worm-bored planet, never liv'd
833"One woman true enough such tryst to keep!"
834"I'd swear by Kate," said Max; and then, "I had
835"A mother, and my father swore by her."
836"By Kate? Ah, that were lusty oath, indeed!
837"Some other man will look into her eyes,
838"And swear me roundly, 'By true Catherine!'
839"And Troilus swore by Cressèd--so they say."
840"You never knew my Kate," said Max, and pois'd
841His axe again on high. "But let it pass--
842"You are too subtle for me: argument
843"Have I none to oppose yours with--but this,
844"Get you a Kate, and let her sunny eyes
845"Dispel the doubting darkness in your soul."
846"And have not I a Kate? pause, friend, and see.
847"She gave me this faint shadow of herself
848"The day I slipp'd the watch-star of our loves--
849"A ring--upon her hand--she loves me, too;
850"Yet tho' her eyes be suns, no Gods are they
851"To give me worlds, or make me feel a tide
852"Of strong Eternity set towards my soul;
853"And tho' she loves me, yet am I content
854"To know she loves me by the hour--the year--
855"Perchance the second--as all women love."
856The bright axe falter'd in the air, and ripp'd
857Down the rough bark, and bit the drifted snow,
858For Max's arm fell, wither'd in its strength,
859'Long by his side. "Your Kate," he said; "your Kate!"
860"Yes, mine, while holds her mind that way, my Kate:
861"I sav'd her life, and had her love for thanks;
862"Her father is Malcolm Graem--Max, my friend,
863"You pale! what sickness seizes on your soul?"
864Max laugh'd, and swung his bright axe high again:
865"Stand back a pace--a too far reaching blow
866"Might level your false head with yon prone trunk--
867"Stand back and listen while I say, 'You lie!'
868"That is my Katie's face upon your breast,
869"But 'tis my Katie's love lives in my breast--
870"Stand back, I say! my axe is heavy, and
871"Might chance to cleave a liar's brittle skull.
872"Your Kate! your Kate! your Kate!--hark, how the woods
873"Mock at your lie with all their woody tongues.
874"O, silence, ye false echoes! not his Kate
875"But mine--I'm certain I will have your life!"
876All the blue heav'n was dead in Max's eyes;
877Doubt-wounded lay Kate's image in his heart,
878And could not rise to pluck the sharp spear out.
879"Well, strike, mad tool," said Alfred, somewhat pale;
880"I have no weapon but these naked hands."
881"Aye, but," said Max, "you smote my naked heart!
882"O shall I slay him?--Satan, answer me--
883"I cannot call on God for answer here.
885A voice from God came thro' the silent woods
886And answer'd him--for suddenly a wind
887Caught the great tree-tops, con'd with high-pil'd snow,
888And smote them to and fro, while all the air
889Was sudden fill'd with busy drifts, and high
890White pillars whirl'd amid the naked trunks,
891And harsh, loud groans, and smiting, sapless boughs
892Made hellish clamour in the quiet place.
893With a shrill shriek of tearing fibres, rock'd
894The half-hewn tree above his fated head;
895And, tott'ring, asked the sudden blast, "Which way?"
896And, answ'ring its windy arms, crash'd and broke
897Thro' other lacing boughs, with one loud roar
898Of woody thunder; all its pointed boughs
899Pierc'd the deep snow--its round and mighty corpse,
900Bark-flay'd and shudd'ring, quiver'd into death.
901And Max--as some frail, wither'd reed, the sharp
902And piercing branches caught at him, as hands
903In a death-throe, and beat him to the earth--
904And the dead tree upon its slayer lay.
905"Yet hear we much of Gods;--if such there be,
906"They play at games of chance with thunderbolts,"
907Said Alfred, "else on me this doom had come.
908"This seals my faith in deep and dark unfaith!
909"Now, Katie, are you mine, for Max is dead--
910"Or will be soon, imprison'd by those boughs,
911"Wounded and torn, sooth'd by the deadly palms
912"Of the white, trait'rous frost; and buried then
913"Under the snows that fill those vast, grey clouds,
914"Low-sweeping on the fretted forest roof.
915"And Katie shall believe you false--not dead;
916"False, false!--And I? O, she shall find me true--
917"True as a fabl'd devil to the soul
918"He longs for with the heat of all hell's fires.
919"These myths serve well for simile, I see.
920"And yet--Down, Pity! Knock not at my breast,
921"Nor grope about for that dull stone my heart;
922"I'll stone thee with it, Pity! Get thee hence,
923"Pity, I'll strangle thee with naked hands;
924"For thou cost bear upon thy downy breast
925"Remorse, shap'd like a serpent, and her fangs
926"Might dart at me and pierce my marrow thro'.
927"Hence, beggar, hence--and keep with fools, I say!
928"He bleeds and groans! Well, Max, thy God or mine
929"Blind Chance, here play'd the butcher--'twas not I.
930"Down, hands! ye shall not lift his fall'n head;
931"What cords tug at ye? What? Ye'd pluck him up
932"And staunch his wounds? There rises in my breast
933"A strange, strong giant, throwing wide his arms
934"And bursting all the granite of my heart!
935"How like to quiv'ring flesh a stone may feel!
936"Why, it has pangs! I'll none of them. I know
937"Life is too short for anguish and for hearts--
938"So I wrestle with thee, giant! and my will
939"Turns the thumb, and thou shalt take the knife.
940"Well done! I'll turn thee on the arena dust,
941"And look on thee--What? thou wert Pity's self,
942"Stol'n in my breast; and I have slaughter'd thee--
943"But hist--where hast thou hidden thy fell snake,
944"Fire-fang'd Remorse? Not in my breast, I know,
945"For all again is chill and empty there,
946"And hard and cold--the granite knitted up.
947"So lie there, Max--poor fond and simple Max,
948"'Tis well thou diest; earth's children should not call
949"Such as thee father--let them ever be
950"Father'd by rogues and villains, fit to cope
951"With the foul dragon Chance, and the black knaves
952"Who swarm'd in loathsome masses in the dust.
953"True Max, lie there, and slumber into death."
954Said the high hill, in the morning: "Look on me--
955"Behold, sweet earth, sweet sister sky, behold
956"The red flames on my peaks, and how my pines
957"Are cressets of pure gold; my quarried scars
958"Of black crevase and shadow-fill'd canon,
959"Are trac'd in silver mist. How on my breast
960"Hang the soft purple fringes of the night;
961"Close to my shoulder droops the weary moon,
962"Dove-pale, into the crimson surf the sun
963"Drives up before his prow: and blackly stands
964"On my slim, loftiest peak, an eagle, with
965"His angry eyes set sunward, while his cry
966"Falls fiercely back from all my ruddy heights;
967"And his bald eaglets, in their bare, broad nest,
968"Shrill pipe their angry echoes: 'Sun, arise,
969"'And show me that pale dove, beside her nest,
970"'Which I shall strike with piercing beak and tear
971"'With iron talons for my hungry young."'
972And that mild dove, secure for yet a space,
973Half waken'd, turns her ring'd and glossy neck
974To watch dawn's ruby pulsing on her breast,
975And see the first bright golden motes slip down
976The gnarl'd trunks about her leaf-deep nest,
977Nor sees nor fears the eagle on the peak.
978"Aye, lassie, sing--I'll smoke my pipe the while,
979"And let it be a simple, bonnie song,
980"Such as an old, plain man can gather in
981"His dulling ear, and feel it slipping thro'
982"The cold, dark, stony places of his heart."
983"Yes, sing, sweet Kate," said Alfred in her ear;
984"I often heard you singing in my dreams
985"When I was far away the winter past."
986So Katie on the moonlit window lean'd,
987And in the airy silver of her voice
988Sang of the tender, blue "Forget-me-not."
989 "Could every blossom find a voice,
990 And sing a strain to me;
991 I know where I would place my choice,
992 Which my delight should be.
993 I would not choose the lily tall,
994 The rose from musky grot;
995 But I would still my minstrel call
996 The blue 'Forget-me-not!'
997 "And I on mossy bank would lie
998 Of brooklet, ripp'ling clear;
999 And she of the sweet azure eye,
1000 Close at my list'ning ear,
1001 Should sing into my soul a strain
1002 Might never be forgot--
1003 So rich with joy, so rich with pain
1004 The blue 'Forget-me-not!'
1005 "Ah, ev'ry blossom hath a tale
1006 With silent grace to tell,
1007 From rose that reddens to the gale
1008 To modest heather bell;
1009 But O, the flow'r in ev'ry heart
1010 That finds a sacred spot
1011 To bloom, with azure leaves apart,
1012 Is the 'Forget-me-not!'
1013 "Love plucks it from the mosses green
1014 When parting hours are nigh,
1015 And places it loves palms between,
1016 With many an ardent sigh;
1017 And bluely up from grassy graves
1018 In some lov'd churchyard spot,
1019 It glances tenderly and waves,
1020 The dear 'Forget-me-not!"'
1021And with the faint last cadence, stole a glance
1022At Malcolm's soften'd face--a bird-soft touch
1023Let flutter on the rugged silver snarls
1024Of his thick locks, and laid her tender lips
1025A second on the iron of his hand.
1026"And did you ever meet," he sudden ask'd
1027Of Alfred, sitting pallid in the shade,
1028"Out by yon unco place, a lad,--a lad
1029"Nam'd Maxwell Gordon; tall, and straight, and strong;
1030"About my size, I take it, when a lad?"
1031And Katie at the sound of Max's name,
1032First spoken for such space by Malcolm's lips,
1033Trembl'd and started, and let down her brow,
1034Hiding its sudden rose on Malcolm's arm.
1035"Max Gordon? Yes. Was he a friend of yours?"
1036"No friend of mine, but of the lassie's here--
1037"How comes he on? I wager he's a drone,
1038"And never will put honey in the hive."
1039"No drone," said Alfred, laughing; "when I left,
1040"He and his axe were quarr'ling with the woods
1041"And making forests reel--love steels a lover's arm."
1042O, blush that stole from Katie's swelling heart,
1043And with its hot rose brought the happy dew
1044Into her hidden eyes. "Aye, aye! is that the way?"
1045Said Malcolm, smiling. "Who may be his love?"
1046"In that he is a somewhat simple soul,
1047"Why, I suppose he loves--" he paused, and Kate
1048Look'd up with two "forget-me-nots" for eyes,
1049With eager jewels in their centres set
1050Of happy, happy tears, and Alfred's heart
1051Became a closer marble than before.
1052"--Why I suppose he loves--his lawful wife."
1053"His wife! his wife!" said Malcolm, in a maze,
1054And laid his heavy hand on Katie's head;
1055"Did you two play me false, my little lass?
1056"Speak and I'll pardon! Katie, lassie, what?"
1057"He has a wife," said Alfred, "lithe and bronz'd,
1058"An Indian woman, comelier than her kind;
1059"And on her knee a child with yellow locks,
1060"And lake-like eyes of mystic Indian brown.
1061"And so you knew him? He is doing well."
1062"False, false!" said Katie, lifting up her head.
1063"O, you know not the Max my father means!"
1064"He came from yonder farm-house on the slope."
1065"Some other Max--we speak not of the same."
1066"He has a red mark on his temple set."
1067"It matters not--'tis not the Max we know."
1068"He wears a turquoise ring slung round his neck."
1069"And many wear them--they are common stones."
1070"His mother's ring--her name was Helen Wynde."
1071"And there be many Helens who have sons. '
1072"O Katie, credit me--it is the man."
1073"O not the man! Why, you have never told
1074"Us of the true soul that the true Max has:
1075"The Max we know has such a soul, I know."
1076"How know you that, my foolish little lass?"
1077Said Malcolm, a storm of anger bound
1078Within his heart, like Samson with green withs--
1079"Belike it is the false young cur we know!"
1080"No, no," said Katie, simply, and low-voic'd;
1081"If he were traitor I must needs be false,
1082"For long ago love melted our two hearts,
1083"And time has moulded those two hearts in one,
1084"And he is true since I am faithful still."
1085She rose and parted, trembling as she went,
1086Feeling the following steel of Alfred's eyes,
1087And with the icy hand of scorn'd mistrust
1088Searching about the pulses of her heart--
1089Feeling for Max's image in her breast.
1090"To-night she conquers Doubt; to-morrow's noon
1091"His following soldiers sap the golden wall,
1092"And I shall enter and possess the fort,"
1093Said Alfred, in his mind. "O Katie, child,
1094"Wilt thou be Nemesis, with yellow hair,
1095"To rend my breast? for I do feel a pulse
1096"Stir when I look into thy pure-barb'd eyes--
1097"O, am I breeding that false thing, a heart?
1098"Making my breast all tender for the fangs
1099"Of sharp Remorse to plunge their hot fire in.
1100"I am a certain dullard! Let me feel
1101"But one faint goad, fine as a needle's point,
1102"And it shall be the spur in my soul's side
1103"To urge the madd'ning thing across the jags
1104"And cliffs of life, into the soft embrace
1105"Of that cold mistress, who is constant too,
1106"And never flings her lovers from her arms--
1107"Not Death, for she is still a fruitful wife,
1108"Her spouse the Dead, and their cold marriage yields
1109"A million children, born of mould'ring flesh--
1110"So Death and Flesh live on--immortal they!
1111"I mean the blank-ey'd queen whose wassail bowl
1112"Is brimm'd from Lethe, and whose porch is red
1113"With poppies, as it waits the panting soul--
1114"She, she alone is great! No scepter'd slave
1115"Bowing to blind creative giants, she;
1116"No forces seize her in their strong, mad hands,
1117"Nor say, 'Do this--be that!' Were there a God,
1118"His only mocker, she, great Nothingness!
1119"And to her, close of kin, yet lover too,
1120"Flies this large nothing that we call the soul."
1121"Doth true Love lonely grow?
1122 Ah, no! ah, no!
1123Ah, were it only so--
1124That it alone might show
1125 Its ruddy rose upon its sapful tree,
1126 Then, then in dewy morn,
1127 Joy might his brow adorn
1128With Love's young rose as fair and glad as he."
1129But with Love's rose doth blow
1130 Ah, woe! ah, woe!
1131Truth with its leaves of snow,
1132And Pain and Pity grow
1133 With Love's sweet roses on its sapful tree!
1134 Love's rose buds not alone,
1135 But still, but still doth own
1136A thousand blossoms cypress-hued to see!
1137"Who curseth Sorrow knows her not at all.
11381138 Dark matrix she, from which the human soul
1139Has its last birth; whence, with its misty thews,
1140Close-knitted in her blackness, issues out;
1141Strong for immortal toil up such great heights,
1142As crown o'er crown rise through Eternity.
1143Without the loud, deep clamour of her wail,
1144The iron of her hands, the biting brine
1145Of her black tears; the Soul but lightly built
1146Of indeterminate spirit, like a mist
1147Would lapse to Chaos in soft, gilded dreams,
1148As mists fade in the gazing of the sun.
1149Sorrow, dark mother of the soul, arise!
1150Be crown'd with spheres where thy bless'd children dwell,
1151Who, but for thee, were not. No lesser seat
1152Be thine, thou Helper of the Universe,
1153Than planet on planet pil'd!--thou instrument,
1154Close-clasp'd within the great Creative Hand!"
1155The Land had put his ruddy gauntlet on,
1156Of Harvest gold, to dash in Famine's face.
11571157 And like a vintage wain, deep dy'd with juice,
1158The great moon falter'd up the ripe, blue sky,
1159Drawn by silver stars--like oxen white
1160And horn'd with rays of light--Down the rich land
1161Malcolm's small valleys, fill'd with grain, lip-high,
1162Lay round a lonely hill that fac'd the moon,
1163And caught the wine-kiss of its ruddy light.
1164A cusp'd, dark wood caught in its black embrace
1165The valleys and the hill, and from its wilds,
1166Spic'd with dark cedars, cried the Whip-poor-will.
1167A crane, belated, sail'd across the moon;
1168On the bright, small, close-link'd lakes green islets lay,
1169Dusk knots of tangl'd vines, or maple boughs,
1170Or tuft'd cedars, boss 'd upon the waves.
1171The gay, enamell'd children of the swamp
1172Roll'd a low bass to treble, tinkling notes
1173Of little streamlets leaping from the woods.
1174Close to old Malcolm's mills, two wooden jaws
1175Bit up the water on a sloping floor;
1176And here, in season, rush'd the great logs down,
1177To seek the river winding on its way.
1178In a green sheen, smooth as a Naiad's locks,
1179The water roll'd between the shudd'ring jaws--
1180Then on the river level roar'd and reel'd--
1181In ivory-arm'd conflict with itself.
1182"Look down," said Alfred, "Katie, look and see
1183"How that but pictures my mad heart to you.
1184"It tears itself in fighting that mad love
1185"You swear is hopeless--hopeless--is it so?"
1186"Ah, yes!" said Katie, "ask me not again."
1187"But Katie, Max is false; no word has come,
1188"Nor any sign from him for many months,
1189"And--he is happy with his Indian wife."
1190She lifted eyes fair as the fresh grey dawn
1191With all its dews and promises of sun.
1192"O, Alfred!--saver of my little life--
1193"Look in my eyes and read them honestly."
1194He laugh'd till all the isles and forests laugh'd.
1195"O simple child! what may the forest flames
1196"See in the woodland ponds but their own fires?
1197"And have you, Katie, neither fears nor doubts?"
1198She, with the flow'r soft pinkness of her palm
1199Cover'd her sudden tears, then quickly said:
1200"Fears--never doubts, for true love never doubts."
1201Then Alfred paus'd a space, as one who holds
1202A white doe by the throat and searches for
1203The blade to slay her. "This your answer still--
1204"You doubt not--doubt not this far love of yours,
1205"Tho' sworn a false young recreant, Kate, by me?"
1206"He is as true as I am," Katie said;
1207"And did I seek for stronger simile,
1208"I could not find such in the universe!"
1209"And were he dead? What, Katie, were he dead--
1210"A handful of brown dust, a flame blown out--
1211"What then would love be strongly true to--Naught?"
1212"Still true to Love my love would be," she said,
1213And, faintly smiling, pointed to the stars.
1214"O fool!" said Alfred, stirr'd--as craters rock
1215To their own throes--and over his pale lips
1216Roll'd flaming stone, his molten heart. "Then, fool--
1217"Be true to what thou wilt--for he is dead.
1218"And there have grown this gilded summer past
1219"Grasses and buds from his unburied flesh.
1220"I saw him dead. I heard his last, loud cry:
1221"'O Kate! ring thro' the woods; in truth I did."
1222She half-raised up a piteous, pleading hand,
1223Then fell along the mosses at his feet.
1224"Now will I show I love you, Kate," he said,
1225"And give you gift of love; you shall not wake
1226"To feel the arrow, feather-deep, within
1227"Your constant heart. For me, I never meant
1228"To crawl an hour beyond what time I felt
1229"The strange, fang'd monster that they call Remorse
1230"Fold round my waken'd heart. The hour has come:
1231"And as Love grew, the welded folds of steel
1232"Slipp'd round in horrid zones. In Love's flaming eyes
1233"Stared its fell eyeballs, and with Hydra head
1234"It sank hot fangs in breast, and brow and thigh.
1235"Come, Kate! O Anguish is a simple knave
1236"Whom hucksters could outwit with small trade lies,
1237"When thus so easily his smarting thralls,
1238"May flee his knout! Come, come, my little Kate;
1239"The black porch with its fringe of poppies waits--
1240"A propylaeum hospitably wide.
1241"No lictors with their fasces at its jaws,
1242"Its floor as kindly to my fire-vein'd feet
1243"As to thy silver, lilied, sinless ones.
1244"O you shall slumber soundly, tho' the white,
1245"Wild waters pluck the crocus of your hair;
1246"And scaly spies stare with round, lightless eyes
1247"At your small face laid on my stony breast.
1248"Come, Kate! I must not have you wake, dear heart,
1249'To hear you cry, perchance, on your dead Max."
1250He turn'd her still face close upon his breast,
1251And with his lips upon her soft, ring'd hair,
1252Leap'd from the bank, low shelving o'er the knot
1253Of frantic waters at the long slide's foot.
1254And as the sever'd waters crash'd and smote
1255Together once again,--within the wave-
1256Stunn'd chamber of his ear there peal'd a cry:
1257"O Kate! stay, madman; traitor, stay! O Kate!"
1258Max, gaunt as prairie wolves in famine time,
1259With long-drawn sickness, reel'd upon the bank--
1260Katie, new-rescu'd, waking in his arms.
1261On the white riot of the waters gleam'd,
1262The face of Alfred, calm, with close-seal'd eyes,
1263And blood red on his temple where it smote
1264The mossy timbers of the groaning slide.
1265"O God!" said Max, as Katie's opening eyes
1266Looked up to his, slow budding to a smile
1267Of wonder and of bliss, "My Kate, my Kate!"
1268She saw within his eyes a larger soul
1269Than that light spirit that before she knew,
1270And read the meaning of his glance and words.
1271"Do as you will, my Max. I would not keep
1272"You back with one light-falling finger-tip!"
1273And cast herself from his large arms upon
1274The mosses at his feet, and hid her face
1275That she might not behold what he would do;
1276Or lest the terror in her shining eyes
1277Might bind him to her, and prevent his soul
1278Work out its greatness; and her long, wet hair
1279Drew, mass'd, about her ears, to shut the sound
1280Of the vex'd waters from her anguish'd brain.
1281Max look'd upon her, turning as he look'd.
1282A moment came a voice in Katie's soul:
1283"Arise, be not dismay'd, arise and look;
1284"If he should perish, 'twill be as a God,
1285"For he would die to save his enemy."
1286But answer'd her torn heart: "I cannot look--
1287"I cannot look and see him sob and die
1288"In those pale, angry arms. O, let me rest
1289"Blind, blind and deaf until the swift pac'd end.
1290"My Max! O God--was that his Katie's name?"
1291Like a pale dove, hawk-hunted, Katie ran,
1292Her fear's beak in her shoulder; and below,
1293Where the coil'd waters straighten'd to a stream,
1294Found Max all bruis'd and bleeding on the bank,
1295But smiling with man's triumph in his eyes,
1296When he has on fierce Danger's lion neck
1297Plac'd his right hand and pluck'd the prey away.
1298And at his feet lay Alfred, still and white,
1299A willow's shadow tremb'ling on his face.
1300"There lies the false, fair devil, O my Kate,
1301"Who would have parted us, but could not, Kate!"
1302"But could not, Max," said Katie. "Is he dead?"
1303But, swift perusing Max's strange, dear face,
1304Close clasp'd against his breast--forgot him straight
1305And ev'ry other evil thing upon
1306The broad green earth.
1307Again rang out the music of the axe,
1308And on the slope, as in his happy dreams,
1309The home of Max with wealth of drooping vines
1310On the rude walls, and in the trellis'd porch
1311Sat Katie, smiling o'er the rich, fresh fields;
1312And by her side sat Malcolm, hale and strong;
1313Upon his knee a little, smiling child,
1314Nam'd--Alfred, as the seal of pardon set
1315Upon the heart of one who sinn'd and woke
1316To sorrow for his sins--and whom they lov'd
1317With gracious joyousness--nor kept the dusk
1318Of his past deeds between their hearts and his.
1319Malcolm had follow'd with his flocks and herds
1320When Max and Katie, hand in hand, went out
1321From his old home; and now, with slow, grave smile,
1322He said to Max, who twisted Katie's hair
1323About his naked arm, bare from his toil:
1324"It minds me of old times, this house of yours;
1325"It stirs my heart to hearken to the axe,
1326"And hear the windy crash of falling trees;
1327"Aye, these fresh forests make an old man young."
1328"Oh, yes!" said Max, with laughter in his eyes;
1329"And I do truly think that Eden bloom'd
1330"Deep in the heart of tall, green maple groves,
1331"With sudden scents of pine from mountain sides
1332"And prairies with their breasts against the skies.
1333"And Eve was only little Katie's height."
1334"Hoot, lad! you speak as ev'ry Adam speaks
1335"About his bonnie Eve; but what says Kate?"
1336"O Adam had not Max's soul," she said;
1337"And these wild woods and plains are fairer far
1338"Than Eden's self. O bounteous mothers they!
1339"Beck'ning pale starvelings with their fresh, green hands,
1340"And with their ashes mellowing the earth,
1341"That she may yield her increase willingly.
1342"I would not change these wild and rocking woods,
1343"Dotted by little homes of unbark'd trees,
1344"Where dwell the fleers from the waves of want,--
1345"For the smooth sward of selfish Eden bowers,
1346"Nor--Max for Adam, if I knew my mind!"
1] The standard scholarly edition of Malcolm's Katie: A Love Story is by D. M. R. Bentley (London, Canada: Canadian Poetry Press, 1987; PS 8455 R3M34 1987 ROBA). He supplies a wealth of literary parallels with the works of poets who influenced Crawford (e.g., Shakespeare and Tennyson). The RPO text, like that of Bentley, follows the only edition supervised by Crawford herself, the 1884 edition (some small inconsistencies in punctuation are silently corrected, and typos are indicated within the text by non-HTML ... tags).
Bentley also transcribes six fragments of the poem in Crawford's holograph manuscripts (from the Lorne Pierce Collection at Queen's University) in his Appendix A. Garvin's emendations to the poem are listed in Appendix B.
22] bourgeon: grow
46] mandrakes: European plant with a deep forked root, shaped like a penis, used as a drug to increase fertility, and often described as if it had human features. Bentley cites Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet IV.iii.47-48.
61] Leviathan: a great fish in the Job 41. red seas: a possible allusion to the Red Sea of Exodus.
63] golden fleeces: what Jason and the Argonauts searched for.
65-66] For the golden calf, an idol abhominable to Moses' God, see Exodus 32.
77] ripping beak: ploughshare
84] gyves: shackles
92] Star or Garter: the Order of the Garter, and the Star of India, both high honours granted by the English monarchy.
105] kine: cattle
109] thew'd: muscular
140] Eve's rosy bar: the stars?
141] her darling star: perhaps Venus
146] moccasins: soft leather shoe or boot without heel made by Amerindian peoples
147] calumet: ceremonial pipe of Amerindian peoples
148] wampum: shell beads
152] wigwam: bark- and branch-formed hut made by Great Lakes Amerindian peoples
153] Cf. "The Dark Stag," 44-46:
The bittern, squaw-like, scolds the air;
The wild duck splashes loudly where
The rustling rice-spears knit.
155] The great lakes: Superior, Huron, Michigan, Ontario, and Erie.
197] sumach: sumach: staghorn sumac, a shrub or small tree common to the Great Lakes region eastward to the Maritime provinces whose leaves in autumn turn "bright scarlet with shades of crimson" (R. C. Hosie, Native Trees of Canada [Canadian Forestry Service, 1973]: 260-61).
201] tranied: creviced (emended to "tranced" by Garvin and Bentley).
230] limn'd: sketched
250] the shrill cry of the diving loon: common loons are goose-sized North American fish-eating birds well known for their night wail, a "Wild maniacal laugh, also a mournful yodeled oo-AH-ho with middle note higher, and a loud ringing kee-a-ree, kee-a-ree with middle note lower" (John Bull and John Farrand, Jr., The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds: Eastern Region [New York: Knopf, 1977]: 466).
253] Esa! esa! shame upon you: the English phrase translates the Amerindian exclamation.
Pale Face: phrase for the white man as well.
271] Indian Summer: brief return of warmer weather in a week in late October or early November before the coming of winter
283] Manitou: Gitche Man'ito, the "Great Spirit" of Amerindian myth
312] Gallic: French
430] 'Leagur'd: overwhelmed, beleagured
526] Phnix: unique bird of Greek myth who died in fire every 500 years only to rise again from its own ashes: taken to be symbolic of the Christian resurrection.
555] purblind: utterly without awareness, completely blind
570] Natant: floating
589] weft and woof: probably Crawford meant woof and warp--the two bands of threads woven at right angles to one another so as to form a fabric
616] drive: river-born mass of logs
716] white squaw: winter
805] cestus: woman's belt
831] Iris: the rainbow
832] Enring: Bentley's emendation. The original reads "Ent'ring".
839] Troilus swore by Cressèd: Chaucer's epic five-book poem about Troilus' love for Criseyde, the Troyan war, and her betrayal of him to Diomede in the camp of the Greeks.
957] cressets: torches
958] crevase and ... canon: deep fissure and ravine (canyon)
959] How: Garvin and Bentley emend to "Now".
988] "Forget-me-not": small blue or white flower of the borage family
994] grot: cave
1028] unco: uncanny, strange (a Scottish term)
1078] Samson with green withs: betrayed by his wife Delilah, Samson was tied to the temple pillars--here by "withs" or ropes--and by pulling brought the building down, killing the pagans and himself.
1094] Nemesis: Greek goddess of fate, exacting revenge for human pride
1112] Lethe: a sluggish river in Hades, drinking from which brought the damned a measure of oblivion
1113] poppies: a plant from which comes opium
1138] matrix: womb
1157] wain: wagon
1166] Whip-poor-will: the name voices the cry of this night bird
1178] Naiad: mythic Greek nymph of streams, lakes, and founts
1233] Hydra: many-headed snake of Greek myth killed by Hercules despite its ability to replace anyone of its cut-off heads with two others
1238] knout: whip
1240] propylaeum: entrance chamber erected before a building
1241] lictors with their fasces: Roman officers escorting judges and bearing wooden rods bundled around an axe--a symbol of executive power
1245] crocus: a slender long-tubed flower blooming in spring
1345] sward: lawn
Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department
of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services,
University of Toronto Libraries.
Original text: Isabella Valancy Crawford, "Old Spookses' Pass," "Malcolm's Katie" and other Poems (Toronto: James Bain and Son, 1884): 40-86. PR 4518 C17 O5 1884 Canadiana (Victoria College Library)
First publication date:
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 1997.
Recent editing: 2:2002/3/27
Rhyme: unrhymed except for lyric interludes
Other poems by Isabella Valancy Crawford