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

by Isabella Valancy Crawford


 

THE ROMAN ROSE-SELLER.




Not from Pæstum come my roses; Patrons, see
My flowers are Roman-blown; their nectaries
Drop honey amber, and their petals throw
Rich crimsons on the lucent marble of the shrine
Where snowy Dian lifts her pallid brow,
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As crimson lips of Love may seek to warm
A sister glow in hearts as pulseless hewn.
Caesar from Afric wars returns to-day;
Patricians, buy my royal roses; strew
His way knee-deep, as though old Tiber roll’d
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A tide of musky roses from his bed to do
A wonder, wond’rous homage. Marcus Lucius, thou
To-day dost wed; buy roses, roses, roses,
To mingle with the nuptial myrtle; look,
I strip the polish’d thorns from the stems,
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The nuptial rose should be a stingless flower;
Lucania, pass not by my roses. Virginia,
Here is a rose that has a canker in’t, and yet
It is most glorious-dyed and sweeter smells
Than those death hath not touched. To-day they bear
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The shield of Claudius with his spear upon it,
Close upon Caesar’s chariot—heap, heap it up [Page 100]
With roses such as these; ’tis true he’s dead
And there’s the canker! but, Romans, he
Died glorious, there’s the perfume! and his virtues
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Are these bright petals; so buy my roses, Widow.
No Greek-born roses mine. Priestess, priestess!
Thy ivory chariot stay; here’s a rose and not
A white one, though thy chaste hands attend
On Vesta’s flame. Love’s of a colour—be it that
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Which ladders heaven and lives amongst the Gods;
Or like the Daffodil blows all about the earth;
Or, Hesperus-like, is one sole star upon
The solemn sky which bridges some sad life,
So here’s a crimson rose: Be thou as pure
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As Dian’s tears iced on her silver cheek,
And know no quality of love, thou art
A sorrow to the Gods! Oh mighty Love!
I would my roses could but chorus Thee.
No roses of Persepolis are mine. Helot, here—
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I give thee this last blossom: A bee as red
As Hybla’s golden toilers sucked its sweets;
A butterfly, wing’d like to Eros, nipp’d
Its new-pinked leaves; the sun, bright despot, stole
The dew night gives to all. Poor slave, methinks
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A bough of cypress were as gay a gift, and yet
It hath some beauty left! a little scarlet—for
The Gods love all; a little perfume, for there is no life,
Poor slave, but hath its sweetness. Thus I make
My roses Oracles. O hark! the cymbals beat
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In god-like silver bursts of sound; I go
To see great Cæsar leading Glory home,
From Campus Martius to the Capitol! [Page 101]