Concept: Cat Poetry

The following poem was included to demonstrate the contemporary understanding of “cats” in Romantic period and to add depth to Barbauld’s comparison between women and cats in “Letter From Grimalkin to Selima”.

“Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat, Drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes” – Thomas Gray (1748)

Twas on a lofty vase’s side,
Where China’s gayest art had dyed
The azure flowers that blow;
Demurest of the tabby kind,
The pensive Selima, reclined
Gazed on the lake below.
Her conscious tail her joy declared;
The fair round face, the snowy beard.
The velvet of her paws,
Her coat that with the tortoise vies,
Her ears of jet, and emerald eyes.
She saw: and purred applause.
Still had she gazed; but ‘midst the tide
Two angel form were seen to glide,
The Genii of the stream;
Their scaly armour’s Tyrian hue
Thro’ richest purple to the view
Betrayed a golden gleam
The hapless nymph with wonder saw:
A whisker first and then a claw
With many an ardent wish,
She stretched in vain to reach the prize.
What female heart can gold despise?
What cat’s averse to fish?
Presumptuous maid! with looks intent
Again she stretched, again she bent,
Nor knew the gulf between.
(Malignant Fate sat by, and smiled)
The slippery verge her feet beguiled,
She tumbled headlong in.
Eight time emerging from the flood
She mewed to every watery god,
Some speedy aid to send.
No Dolphin came, no Nereid stirred;
Nor cruel Tom, nor Susan heard.
A favourite has no friend!
From hence, ye beauties, undeceived,
Know, one false step is ne’er retrieved,
And be with cautions bold.
Not all that tempt your wandering eyes
And heedless hears is lawful prize,
Nor all, that glisters, gold.

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