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

by Isabella Valancy Crawford


 

“IN EXCHANGE FOR HIS SOUL !”


 

Long time one whisper’d in his ear—
    “Give me thy strong, pure soul; behold
’Tis mine to give what men hold dear—
    The treasure of red gold.”

“I bribe thee not with crown and throne,
5
    Pale spectres they of kingly pow’r!
I give thee gold—red gold alone
    Can crown a king each hour!”

He frown’d, perchance he felt a throe,
    Gold-hunger gnawing at his heart—
10
A passing pang—for, stern and low,
    He bade the fiend depart!

Again there came the voice and said:
    “Gold for that soul of thine were shame;
Thine be that thing for which have bled
15
    Both Gods and men,—high Fame.

“And in long ages yet to sweep
    Their gloom and glory on the day;
When mould’ring kings, forgot, shall sleep
    In ashes, dust, and clay:
20

“Thy name shall, starlike, pulse and burn
    On heights most Godlike; and divine,
Immortal bays thy funereal urn
    Shall lastingly entwine!” [Page 109]

He sigh’d; perchance he felt the thrill,
25
    The answ’ring pulse to Fame’s high call;
But answer made his steadfast will—
    “I will not be they thrall!”

Again there came the voice and cried:
    “Dost thou my kingly bribes disdain?
30
Yet shalt thou barter soul and pride
    For things ignobly vain!

“Two shameless eyes—two false, sweet eyes—
    A sinful brow of sinless white,
Shall hurl thy soul from high clear skies
35
    To ME, and Stygian night.

“Beneath the spell of gilded hair,
    Thy palms, like sickly weeds, shall die!
God-strong Resolves, a sensuous air
    Shall mock and crucify.
40

“Go to! my thrall at last thou art!
    Ere bud to rounded blossom change;
Thou wilt for wanton lips and heart
    Most false, thy soul exchange!” [Page 110]