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On a Favourite Cat, Drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes -- Thomas Gray

Guest poem submitted by William Grey:
(Poem #1555) On a Favourite Cat, Drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes
  '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 purr'd applause.

  Still had she gazed; but 'midst the tide
 Two angel forms were seen to glide,
   The Genii of the stream:
 Their scaly armour's Tyrian hue
 Thro' richest purple to the view
   Betray'd a golden gleam.

  The hapless Nymph with wonder saw:
 A whisker first and then a claw,
   With many an ardent wish,
 She stretch'd 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 stretch'd, again she bent,
   Nor knew the gulf between.
 (Malignant Fate sat by, and smiled.)
 The slipp'ry verge her feet beguiled,
   She tumbled headlong in.

  Eight times emerging from the flood
 She mew'd to ev'ry wat'ry god,
   Some speedy aid to send.
 No Dolphin came, no Nereid stirr'd:
 Nor cruel Tom, nor Susan heard.
   A Fav'rite has no friend!

  From hence, ye Beauties, undeceived,
 Know, one false step is ne'er retrieved,
   And be with caution bold.
 Not all that tempts your wand'ring eyes
 And heedless hearts, is lawful prize;
    Nor all that glisters, gold.
-- Thomas Gray

As a recent subscriber to Wondering Minstrels I ask indulgence for
nominating a poem which is justly famous. This poem is a personal favourite
of mine. I marvel at Gray's poetic genius transforming a sad domestic
misadventure into an immortal moral tale. The mock heroic form is pure
delight. The poem is richly steeped in literary allusion, and much detail
can be found at:

A couple of notes: "Genii" are guardian spirits. Cats have nine lives; hence
Selima emerged eight times before succumbing to her wat'ry fate. The dolphin
alludes to the story of the dolphin which saved Arion from drowning. The
allusion in Nereid is possibly to the story of Sabrina in Comus. "Tom" and
"Susan" are generic names of domestic servants.

66 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Martin Sweaney said...

"This message is intended for official use and may contain SENSITIVE information. If this message contains SENSITIVE information, it should be properly delivered, labeled, stored, and disposed of according to policy."

I have loved this poem for 30 years, since I discovered it as a teenager. It is one of those poems, whether humorous or serious, which we can read for pleasure rather than dissect joylessly in a homework assignment. Another such poem is "The Haystacks in the Floods."

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Anonymous said...

..."Another such poem is "The Haystacks in the Floods."

That's "The Haystack in the Floods."

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