Buying and Selling by Thomas Burke

Throughout the day I sit behind the counter of my shop
And the odours of my country are all about me—
Areca nut, and betel leaf, and manioc,
Lychee and suey sen,
Li-un and dried seaweed,
Tchah and sam-shu;
And these carry my mind to half-forgotten days
When tales were plentiful and care was hard to hold.

All day I sell for trifling sums the wares of my own land,
And buy for many cash such things as people wish to sell,
That I may sell them again to others,
With some profit to myself.

One night a white-skinned damsel came to me
And offered, with fair words, something she wished to sell.

Now if I desire a jacket I can buy it with coin,
Or barter for it something of my stock.
If I desire rice-spirit, that, too, I can buy;
And elegant entertainments and delights are all to be had for cash.

But there is one good thing above all precious,
That no man may buy.
And though I buy readily most things that I desire,
This thing that the white maid offered at my own price
I would not buy.

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