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Poem by Robert William Service
I Once, when a boy, I killed a cat. I guess it's just because of that A cat evokes my tenderness, And takes so kindly my caress. For with a rich, resonant purr It sleeks an arch or ardent fur So vibrantly against my shin; And as I tickle tilted chin And rub the roots of velvet ears Its tail in undulation rears. Then tremoring with all its might, In blissful sensuous delight, It looks aloft with lambent eyes, Mystic, Egyptianly wise, And O so eloquently tries In every fibre to express Consummate trust and friendliness. II I think the longer that we live The more do we grow sensitive Of hurt and harm to man and beast, And learn to suffer at the least Surmise of other's suffering; Till pity, lie an eager spring Wells up, and we are over-fain To vibrate to the chords of pain. For look you; after three-score yeas I see with anguish nigh to tears That starveling cat so sudden still I set my terrier to to kill. Great, golden memories pale away, But that unto my dying day Will haunt and haunt me horribly. Why, even my poor dog felt shame And shrank away as if to blame of that poor mangled mother-cat Would ever lie at his doormat. III What's done is done. No power can bring To living joy a slaughtered thing. Aye, if of life I gave my own I could not for my guilt atone. And though in stress of sea and land Sweet breath has ended at my hand, That boyhood killing in my eyes A thousand must epitomize. Yet to my twilight steals a thought: Somehow forgiveness may be bought; Somewhere I'll live my life again So finely sensitized to pain, With heart so rhymed to truth and right That Truth will be a blaze of light; All all the evil I have wrought Will haggardly to home be brought... Then will I know my hell indeed, And bleed where I made others bleed, Till purged by penitence of sin To Peace (or Heaven) I may win. Well, anyway, you know the why We are so pally, cats and I; So if you have the gift of shame, O Fellow-sinner, be the same.
Robert William Service
Robert William Service's other poems:
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