BLACK CAT POEMS
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The King and the Naiad
When the wrongs of peace grow mighty,
They beget the wrong of war,
Whose wild night, with deeds immortal,
Sparkles brightly, star on star.
"O king, to health restore us;
We are besieged by thirst.
There are two foes before us;
The unseen foe is worst.
"Lest thirst's sharp arrows slaughter,
Yield to the open foe,
And lead us to the water,
Tho' it in thraldom flow."
Thus to Soüs, King of Sparta,
With parched lips his soldiers cried,
When Arcadian besiegers
Hemmed them in on every side.
In the dry and stony stronghold
Was no drop of water found;
But a brook, beyond the rampart,
Lightly danced along the ground.
Lofty Soüs bade a soulder
Wave a truce, and, with the foe,
Made a compact strong as granite,
With one rift where hope might grow.
Sparta will yield up her conquests,
She her claims to them will sink,
If her king and all his army
From the nearest fountain drink.
To these terms they made their pledges,
Whom dry thirst gave fearful odds,
And, to witness what they signed to,
Loudly called upon their gods.
In a deep, cool glen, appareled
In green boughs, which swayed above,
To the sunlight rose the waters,
Soft as eyes that beam with love.
Hither came the adversaries;
And the Spartans, as by whips,
Were ondriven to the kisses
Of the liquid Naiad lips.
As each fever-throated fighter,
Bending low his waving crest,
Stooped to quaff his land's dishonor,
Him the troubled king addressed:
"If thou wilt not drink, but conquer
This temptation of the spring,
I will give to thee my kingdom,
And thou shalt be crowned its king!"
Heedless of him were his soldiers;
Thirst they gave a higher rank;
By the choking captain maddened,
All, with panic faces, drank.
It appeared not heavy water,
But divine air, cool and thin,
Which they, freed from stifling torture,
Now were deeply breathing in.
Lastly stooped thirst-burdened Soüs
To the treason of the spring;
But he turned, and would not drink it,
Being absolutely king.
Rising, as his face he sprinkled,
With his men he marched away,
Scornful of the daunted captors
Who in vain might say him nay.
He would yield not up his conquests,
For himself and all his men
Had not drank the sparkling pleasure
That allured them to the glen.
poems by Henry Abbey