BLACK CAT POEMS
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The Old Balsam
Obadiah Cyrus Auringer
Year in, year out, unchanged thou standest there,
And broodest in a visionary wise;
Inscrutably the same in seasons rare
As 'midst the winter's straits and stormy cries.
Solemn and vast, and hard in reticence,
That speaks not save in unremembered tongue,
Thou standest an enigma and offence,
Steadfast and old 'midst all that's frail and young.
Looking on noble mountains from thy place,
And on still waters stayed in linkéd hills,--
A landscape with a chance capricious face,
Now charmed with smiles, now vexed with winter ills.
Alternate barrenness, bloom, snow, and flowers,
Web sunbeam and frost crystal, now and then;
All things in turn, and flowing like the hours,
And neighbored by the near abodes of men.
'Midst these, and under skies as fair as joy,
Or hard as hate, and drawn in fierce distress,
Thou keep'st the calm that nothing can annoy,
The mark--the state no chance can dispossess.
For why? what art thou, and from whence, that so
Thou lettest pass the ineffectual world,
Scornful of its vext strivings to and fro,--
Sea without port, whose sails are nowhere furled?
What art thou, with such matchless hardihood,
That keep'st thy spirit while the fiery sway
Of change unsettles e'en the brave and good,
And leaves not one, but whirls them all away?
Art thou a prophet, like of old, with feet
Set steadfast on the ancient base of things,
With mighty heart of uncorrupted heat,
Whose thoughts are strong, fierce angels clad with wings?
A living sign whereon the world shall gaze,
And be reproved for its inconstancy,
Confronting all its feeble pride of days
With the calm purpose of eternity?
I think thou art a prophet; yet thou hast
At sudden times a glow of milder grace,
That mellows o'er that mood,--that iron cast
Of thought, which marks thee of prophetic race,
Like moonlight over armor; and at night,
Oft when sleep drugs the vulgar sense with dreams,
Thou wear'st a look of rapture, and a light
Of elfish wildness round thy figure gleams.
Sad, yet withal not lonely, but as one,
For his high heart exalted like a star,
Cut off from kin, and understood by none,
Thou hast thy precious visits from afar.
Ere fields revive their green at Spring's behest,
Robin, the orator from out the south,
From the precarious vantage of thy crest
Pleads loud his cause with eloquence of mouth.
The meteor oriole, of golden fame,
After all woods and orchards overflown,
Cools in thy ample cloud his heart of flame,
And plies the art so wondrously his own.
The lady bluebird, quaint and delicate,
And yellowbird the fairy, still and small,
Have known thee long for some congenial trait,--
Some grace, some charm familiar over all.
In the black midnight, hark! a cry, a shout,
As of a night sea roaring unto sea!
The lightning and the storm have found thee out,
Thy giant kindred hold converse with thee!
For these thou hast a voice of speech, a tongue
Confessed, or couched in mystic silences,
That ancient speech unchanged since time was young--
Ah, how forgot of all save such as these!
Nay, not of all;--some few large hearts remain,
Which heed the noble music nature makes,
Which rest and listen, rise and toil again,
Strong in the joy its melody awakes.
Some sage, some prophet, surely thou must be,
Since these esteem thee something more than friend;
Yea, mine own heart hath apprehended thee,
Henceforth thou art my brother to the end!
A soul serene, that hath its dreams apart;
A mind unmoved by blind Ambition's call;
A noble, calm capacity of heart;
A faithful vision glorifying all.
Of strengths like these the present world hath need,
If I, who question thee, have learned aright,--
To give to time men of heroic breed,
And bring the old sublimities to light.
Ah, well, good night, brave friend; kind darkness keep
This image of thee warm, which now I hold;
I go awhile to walk the paths of sleep,
'Midst frailer forms and visions manifold.
poems by Obadiah Cyrus Auringer