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

by Isabella Valancy Crawford




“O soft, small cloud, the dim, sweet dawn adorning,
Swan-like a-sailing on its tender grey;
  Why dost thou, dost thou float,
So high, the wing’d, wild note

Of silver lamentation from my dark and pulsing throat
  May never reach thee,
Tho’ every note beseech thee

To bend thy white wings downward thro’ the smiling of the             morning,
And by the black wires of my prison lightly stray?

“O dear, small cloud, when all blue morn is ringing

With sweet notes piped from other throats than mine;
  If those glad singers please
The tall and nodding trees—

If to them dance the pennants of the swaying columbine,
  If to their songs are set
The dance of daffodil and trembling violet—
  Will they pursue thee
With tireless wings as free and bold as thine?  
  Will they woo thee
With love throbs in the music of their singing?
  Ah, nay! fair Cloud, ah, nay!
Their hearts and wings will stay

With yellow bud of primrose and soft blush of the May;
  Their songs will thrill and die, [Page 182]
Tranc’d in the perfume of the rose’s breast,
  While I must see thee fly
With white, broad, lonely pinions down the sky.

“O fair, small cloud, unheeding o’er me straying,
Jewell’d with topaz light of fading stars;
  Thy downy edges red
As the great eagle of the Dawn sails high
  And sets his fire-bright head
And wind-blown pinions towards thy snowy breast;
  And thou canst blush while I
Must pierce myself with song and die

On the bald sod behind my prison bars;
  Nor feel upon my crest
Thy soft, sunn’d touches delicately playing!

“O fair, small cloud, grown small as lily flow’r!
Even while I smite the bars to see thee fade;
  The wind shall bring thee
The strain I sing thee—

I, in wired prison stay’d,
Worse than the breathless primrose glade.
  That in my morn,
  I shrilly sang to scorn;
 I’ll burst my heart up to thee in this hour!

“O fair, small cloud, float nearer yet and hear me!
A prison’d lark once lov’d a snowy cloud,
  Nor did the Day
        With sapphire lips, and kiss
  Of summery bliss, [Page 183]
  Draw all her soul away;
Vainly the fervent East
Deck’d her with roses for their bridal feast;
  She would not rest
In his red arms, but slipp’d adown the air
  And wan and fair,
Her light foot touch’d a purple mountain crest,
  And touching, turn’d
Into swift rain, that like to jewels burn’d;
In the great, wondering azure of the sky;
  And while a rainbow spread
Its mighty arms above, she, singing, fled
  To the lone-feather’d slave,
  In his sad weird grave,
Whose heart upon his silver song had sped
  To her in days of old,
In dawns of gold,

And murmuring to him, said:
“O love, I come! O love, I come to cheer thee—
  Love, to be near thee!” [Page 184]