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

by Isabella Valancy Crawford


 

THE SHELL.


 

O little, whisp’ring, murm’ring shell, say cans’t thou tell to me
Good news of any stately ship that sails upon the sea?
I press my ear, O little shell, against thy rosy lips;
Cans’t tell me tales of those who go down to the sea in ships?

What, not a word? Ah hearken, shell, I’ve shut the cottage door;
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There’s scarce a sound to drown thy voice, so silent is the moor,
A bell may tinkle far away upon its purple rise;
A bee may buz among the heath—a lavrock cleave the skies.

But if you only breathe the name I name upon my knees,
Ah, surely I should catch the word above such sounds as these.
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And Grannie’s needles click no more, the ball of yarn is done,
And she’s asleep outside the door where shines the merry sun.

One night while Grannie slept, I dreamed he came across the             moor,
And stood, so handsome, brown and tall, beside the open door; [Page 150]
I thought I turned to pick a rose that by the sill had blown,
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(He liked a rose) and when I looked, O shell, I was alone!

Across the moor there dwells a wife; she spaed my fortune true,
And said I’d plight my troth with one who wore a jacket blue;
That morn before my Grannie woke, just when the lapwing stirred,
I sped across the misty rise and sought the old wife’s word.
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With her it was the milking time, and while she milk’d the goat,
I ask’d her then to spae my dream, my heart was in my throat—
But that was just because the way had been so steep and long,
And not because I had the fear that anything was wrong.

“Ye’ll meet, ye’ll meet,” was all she said; “Ye’ll meet when it is
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            mirk.”
I gave her tippence that I meant for Sabbath-day and kirk;
And then I hastened back again; it seemed that never sure
The happy sun delay’d so long to gild the purple moor.

That’s six months back, and every night I sit beside the door,
And while I knit I keep my gaze upon the mirky moor; [Page 151]
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I keep old Collie by my side—he’s sure to spring and bark,
When Ronald comes across the moor to meet me in the dark.

I know the old wife spaed me true, for did she not foretell
I’d break a ring with Ronald Grey beside the Hidden Well?
It came to pass at shearing-time, before he went to sea
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(We’re nighbours’ bairns) how could she know that Ronald cared             for me.

So night by night I watch for him—by day I sing and work,
And try to never mind the latch—he’s coming in the dark;
Yet as the days and weeks and months go slipping slowly thro’,
I wonder if the wise old wife has spaed my fortune true!
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Ah, not a word about his ship? Well, well, I’ll lay thee by.
I see a heron from the marsh go sailing in the sky,
The purple moor is like a dream, a star is twinkling clear—
Perhaps the meeting that she spaed is drawing very near! [Page 152]