Old Spookses’ Pass, Malcolm’s Katie and Other Poems

by Isabella Valancy Crawford




Buy my roses, citizens,—
    Here are roses golden white,
Like the stars that lovers watch
    On a purple summer night.
Here are roses ruddy red,
    Here are roses Cupid’s pink;
Here are roses like his cheeks—
    Deeper—like his lips, I think.
Vogue la galère! what if they die,
    Roses will bloom again—so, buy!

Here is one—it should be white;
    As tho’ in a playful mind,
Flora stole the winter snow
    From the sleeping north’rn wind;
And lest he should wake and rage,
    Breath’d a spell of ardent pow’r
On the flake, and flung it down
    To the earth, a snow-white flow’r.
Vogue la galère! ’tis stain’d with red?
    That only means—a woman’s dead!

Buy my flowers, citizens,—
    Here’s a Parma violet;
Ah! why is my white rose red?
    ’tis the blood of a grisette;
She sold her flowers by the quay;
    Brown her eyes and fair her hair; [Page 161]
Sixteen summers old, I think—
    With a quaint, Provincial air.
Vogue la galère! she’s gone the way
    That flesh as well as flow’rs must stray.

She had a father old and lame;
    He wove his baskets by her side;
Well, well! ’twas fair enough to see
    Her look of love, his glance of pride;
He wore a beard of shaggy grey,
    And clumsy patches on his blouse;
She wore about her neck a cross,
    And on her feet great wooden shoes.
Vogue la galère! we have no cross.
    Th’ Republic says it’s gold is dross!

They had a dog, old, lame, and lean;
    He once had been a noble hound;
And day by day he lay and starv’d,
    Or gnaw’d some bone that he had found.
They shar’d with him the scanty crust,
    That barely foil’d starvation’s pain;
He’d wag his feeble tail and turn
    To gnaw that polish’d bone again.
Vogue la galère! why don’t ye greet
    My tale with laughter, prompt and meet?

No fear! ye’ll chorus me with laughs
    When draws my long jest to its close—
And have for life a merry joke,
    “The spot of blood upon the rose.” [Page 162]
She sold her flow’rs—but what of that?
    The child was either good or dense;
She starv’d—for one she would not sell,
    Patriots, ’twas her innocence!
Vogue la galère! poor little clod!
    Like us, she could not laugh at God.

A week ago I saw a crowd
    Of red-caps; and a Tricoteuse
Call’d as I hurried swiftly past—
    “They’ve taken little Wooden Shoes!”
Well, so they had. Come, laugh, I say;
    Your laugh with mine should come in pat!
For she, the little sad-fac’d child,
    Was an accurs’d aristocrat!
Vogue la galère! the Republic’s said
    Saints, angels, nobles, all are dead.

“The old man, too!” shriek’d out the crowd;
    She turn’d her small white face about;
And ye’d have laugh’d to see the air
    With which she fac’d that rabble rout!
I laugh’d, I know—some laughter breeds
    A merry moisture in the eye:
My cheeks were wet, to see her hand
    Try to push those brawny patriots by.
Vogue la galère! we’ll laugh nor weep
    When Death, not God, calls us to sleep

“Not Jean!” she said, “’tis only I
    That noble am—take only me; [Page 163]
I only am his foster-child,—
    He nurs’d me on his knee!
See! he is guiltless of the crime
    Of noble birth—and lov’d me not,
Because I claim an old descent,
    But that he nurs’d me in his cot!”
Vogue la galère! ’tis well no God
    Exists, to look upon this sod!

“Believe her not!” he shriek’d; “O, no!
    I am the father of her life!”
“Poor Jean!” she said; “believe him not,
    His mind with dreams is rife.
Farewell, dear Jean!” she said. I laugh’d,
    Her air was so sedately grand.
“Thou’st been a faithful servant, so
    Thou well may’st kiss my hand.”
Vogue la galère! the sun is red—
    And will be, Patriots, when we’re dead.

“Child! my dear child!” he shriek’d; she turn’d
    And let the patriots close her round;
He was so lame, he fell behind—
    He and the starving hound.
“Let him go free!” yell’d out the mob;
    “Accurs’d be these nobles all!
The poor old wretch is craz’d it seems;
    Blood, Citizens, will pall.
Vogue la galère! We can’t buy wine,
    So let blood flow—be’t thine or mine.”

I ply my trade about the Place
    Where proudly reigns La Guillotine; [Page 164]
I pile my basket up with bloom,
    With mosses soft and green.
This morning, not an hour ago,
    I stood beside a Tricoteuse;
And saw the little fair head fall
    Off the little Wooden Shoes.
Vogue la galère! By Sanson’s told,
    Into his basket, dross and gold.

She died alone. A woman drew
    As close beside her as she might;
And in that woman’s basket lay
    A rose all snowy white.
But sixteen summers old—a child
    As one might say—to die alone;
Ah, well—it is the only way
    These nobles can atone!
Vogue la galère! here is my jest—
    My white rose redden’d from her breast!

Buy my roses, Citizens!
    Here’s a vi’let—here’s a pink—
Deeper tint than Cupid’s cheek;
    Deeper than his lips, I think.
Flora’s nymphs on rosy feet
    Ne’er o’er brighter blossoms sprang!
Ne’er a songster sweeter blooms,
    In his sweetest rhyming sang!
Vogue la galère! Roses must die—
    Roses will grow again—so, buy! [Page 165]