Isabella Valancy Crawford

Here you will find the Long Poem Malcolm's Katie: A Love Story of poet Isabella Valancy Crawford

Malcolm's Katie: A Love Story

 Max plac'd a ring on little Katie's hand,
 A silver ring that he had beaten out
 From that same sacred coin--first well-priz'd wage
 For boyish labour, kept thro' many years.
 "See, Kate," he said, "I had no skill to shape
 Two hearts fast bound together, so I grav'd
 Just K. and M., for Katie and for Max."
 "But, look; you've run the lines in such a way,
 That M. is part of K., and K. of M.,"
 Said Katie, smiling. "Did you mean it thus?
 I like it better than the double hearts."
 "Well, well," he said, "but womankind is wise!
 Yet tell me, dear, will such a prophecy
 Not hurt you sometimes, when I am away?
 Will you not seek, keen ey'd, for some small break
 In those deep lines, to part the K. and M.
 For you? Nay, Kate, look down amid the globes
 Of those large lilies that our light canoe
 Divides, and see within the polish'd pool
 That small, rose face of yours,--so dear, so fair,--
 A seed of love to cleave into a rock,
 And bourgeon thence until the granite splits
 Before its subtle strength. I being gone--
 Poor soldier of the axe--to bloodless fields,
 (Inglorious battles, whether lost or won)
 That sixteen summer'd heart of yours may say:
 "I but was budding, and I did not know
 My core was crimson and my perfume sweet;
 I did not know how choice a thing I am;
 I had not seen the sun, and blind I sway'd
 To a strong wind, and thought because I sway'd,
 'Twas to the wooer of the perfect rose--
 That strong, wild wind has swept beyond my ken--
 The breeze I love sighs thro' my ruddy leaves,"
 "O, words!" said Katie, blushing, "only words!
 You build them up that I may push them down;
 If hearts are flow'rs, I know that flow'rs can root--
 Bud, blossom, die--all in the same lov'd soil;
 They do so in my garden. I have made
 Your heart my garden. If I am a bud
 And only feel unfoldment--feebly stir
 Within my leaves; wait patiently; some June,
 I'll blush a full-blown rose, and queen it, dear,
 In your lov'd garden. Tho' I be a bud,
 My roots strike deep, and torn from that dear soil
 Would shriek like mandrakes--those witch things I read
 Of in your quaint old books. Are you content?"
 "Yes--crescent-wise--but not to round, full moon.
 Look at yon hill that rounds so gently up
 From the wide lake; a lover king it looks,
 In cloth of gold, gone from his bride and queen;
 And yet delay'd, because her silver locks
 Catch in his gilded fringes; his shoulders sweep
 Into blue distance, and his gracious crest,
 Not held too high, is plum'd with maple groves;--
 One of your father's farms. A mighty man,
 Self-hewn from rock, remaining rock through all."
 "He loves me, Max," said Katie: "Yes, I know--
 A rock is cup to many a crystal spring.
 Well, he is rich; those misty, peak-roof'd barns--
 Leviathans rising from red seas of grain--
 Are full of ingots, shaped like grains of wheat.
 His flocks have golden fleeces, and his herds
 Have monarchs worshipful, as was the calf
 Aaron call'd from the furnace; and his ploughs,
 Like Genii chained, snort o'er his mighty fields.
 He has a voice in Council and in Church--"
 "He work'd for all," said Katie, somewhat pain'd.
 "Aye, so, dear love, he did; I heard him tell
 How the first field upon his farm was ploughed.
 He and his brother Reuben, stalwart lads,
 Yok'd themselves, side by side, to the new plough;
 Their weaker father, in the grey of life
 (But rather the wan age of poverty
 Than many winters), in large, gnarl'd hands
 The plunging handles held; with mighty strains
 They drew the ripping beak through knotted sod,
 Thro' tortuous lanes of blacken'd, smoking stumps;
 And past great flaming brush heaps, sending out
 Fierce summers, beating on their swollen brows.
 O, such a battle! had we heard of serfs
 Driven to like hot conflict with the soil,
 Armies had march'd and navies swiftly sail'd
 To burst their gyves. But here's the little point--
 The polish'd di'mond pivot on which spins
 The wheel of Difference--they OWN'D the rugged soil,
 And fought for love--dear love of wealth and pow'r,
 And honest ease and fair esteem of men;
 One's blood heats at it!" "Yet you said such fields
 Were all inglorious," Katie, wondering, said.
 "Inglorious? yes; they make no promises
 Of Star or Garter, or the thundering guns
 That tell the earth her warriors are dead.
 Inglorious! aye, the battle done and won
 Means not--a throne propp'd up with bleaching bones;
 A country sav'd with smoking seas of blood;
 A flag torn from the foe with wounds and death;
 Or Commerce, with her housewife foot upon
 Colossal bridge of slaughter'd savages,
 The Cross laid on her brawny shoulder, and
 In one sly, mighty hand her reeking sword;
 And in the other all the woven cheats