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

by Isabella Valancy Crawford


 

LA BOUQUETIÉRE.


 

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,
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    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!
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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,
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    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!
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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;
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    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.
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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,
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    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!
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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,
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    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?
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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?
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    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.
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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;
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    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.
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“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
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    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
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“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
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    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!
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“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,
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    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.
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“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;
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    “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.”
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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,
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    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.
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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
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    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!
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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
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    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]
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